PM Barzani visits UK, meets senior British officials
Direct flight between London and Kurdistan discussed with Minister of Transport
Kurdistan Region’s Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani visited UK last week and met several high ranking UK officials.
PM Barzani and his accompanying delegation met with British Foreign Secretary William Hague to discuss bilateral relations and current political issues.
Speaking after the meeting, Foreign Secretary Hague said, "I was pleased to welcome Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Barzani to London today. The Prime Minister's visit is a chance to celebrate the warm relations between the UK and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, with links in areas as diverse as trade, education, and culture, and to reaffirm the UK's desire to remain the Region's partner of choice on all of these issues."
Prime Minister Barzani expressed his full support for the KRG's robust and mutually beneficial partnership with the United Kingdom. Speaking after meeting the Foreign Secretary, he said, "This meeting was an important step in solidifying an already successful partnership with the UK, as well as exploring new avenues for cooperation. We highly value this relationship and are pleased to see it progress in this way."
The Prime Minister discussed relations between Erbil and Baghdad, the political developments in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, and the pressing matter of the Syrian refugee crisis, including the role of the Kurdistan Region as a safe haven for thousands of Syrian refugees.
The Foreign Secretary lauded the success of the Kurdistan Region, stating, "I congratulated the Prime Minister on the progress that has been made in the Kurdistan Region over recent years, and the relative stability and security that has been achieved despite the violence in other parts of Iraq, and in neighboring Syria."
During the meeting both sides discussed the latest political developments in Iraq, including the recent elections, and the forthcoming government formation process. The regional government formation process in the Kurdistan was also an important topic. Prime Minister Barzani emphasised the value of including the main Kurdish political parties to reflect a truly inclusive and represent government. The meeting was attended by Hugh Robertson, The British Minister of State for the Middle East, the British Ambassador to Iraq, and a number of British advisors and officials.
Both sides also discussed ways to consolidate and strengthen relations between Erbil and London, particularly in regard to trade, investment, and cultural and educational exchange, in addition to cooperation between official British and Kurdish institutions. They spoke about the importance of commencing direct flights between Erbil and London as well as developing a clear mechanism which would ensure seniorlevel follow up and implementation of agreements.
Later that evening the Kurdish delegation met members of parliament from various British political parties at a dinner held in honor of the visiting delegation, which included Minister of Natural Resources Ashti Harwami, Minister of Planning Ali Sindi, Minister of Housing and Reconstruction and Acting Head of the Board of Investment Kamaran Ahmed, Head of the KRG Department of Follow Up and Coordination Minister Qubad Talabani, Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations Minister Falah Mustafa, KRG Spokesperson Minister Safeen Dizayee, KRG Representative to the UK Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman and various advisors.
The Kurdish delegation also met with the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Mayor Johnson welcomed the Prime Minister and his delegation and said that the visit would serve as a good opportunity to further relations between the cities of London and Erbil as well as Britain and the Kurdistan Region. The Prime Minister discussed the growing opportunities for business and investment in Kurdistan, describing the current economic boom as a new chapter after decades of economic neglect. Both sides noted the many areas in which Erbil can learn from London's experience as a global capital and a leading financial hub.
PM Barzani pointed to the value of direct relations between the city administrations of Erbil and London, extending to Mayor Johnson an official invitation to visit Erbil with a delegation of companies interested in operating in Kurdistan. The Prime Minister said that British companies with expertise in tourism, infrastructure development, oil and gas, financial services, and other sectors would find great opportunities in Kurdistan, as would investors.
In the last day of the visit the delegation met with the British Minister of Transport and State for International Cooperation. A statement by the Kurdistan Regional Government cited that, “Barzani discussed with Transport Minister, Robert Kwdwell, relations between Kurdistan Region and Britain and ways of enhancing them in various fields, especially in the field of transport and communications, where the two sides stressed the importance of launching a direct air route between London and Erbil which would play an active role in the expansion of cultural and social relations.” “For his part, Barzani expressed readiness to support the idea of cooperation and provide all forms of facilities by the provincial government to link ErbilLondon via air route. The statement noted that the last leg of Barzani’s visit was to meet with Minister of State for International Cooperation Dunkin and discussed with him the current situation in the region in general, as well as the situation of displaced persons from areas of central Iraq to the Kurdistan region and alleviate their suffering and provide assistance to them by the provincial government,” the statement added.
The last meeting of Prime Minister Barzani’s visit to the United Kingdom was with Minister of State for International Development Alan Duncan. Both sides discussed the current situation in the region as a whole as well as the situation of the internally displaced persons who have fled to the Kurdistan Region from other provinces of Iraq. They also discussed the Syrian refugees in Kurdistan and the level of assistance and services provided to refugees by the KRG. Minister Duncan praised the efforts of the KRG in welcoming and accommodating these refugees in addition to providing them with aid, health and education services.
Kurdish Prime Minister asked the Minister of State for International Development to encourage British and international charitable and non-governmental organizations to increase their operations in Kurdistan to provide refugees and internally displaced persons with humanitarian aid in coordination with the Kurdistan Region Government. The amount of external aid currently provided does not match the needs of refugees, as the Iraqi federal government has contributed little aid. The KRG has provided millions of dollars in assistance and in-kind support, including housing hundreds of thousands of refugees, an effort warmly noted by Minister Duncan.