Iraqi and Kurdistan Region Ministers, diplomatic officials and the business community gathered on Tuesday to inaugurate Lufthansa’s first flights to Erbil International Airport, in the capital of the Kurdistan Region.
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Interior Minister Karim Sinjari and Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Dr Roj Shawis and Erbil’s diplomatic community participated in the ceremony.
In his speech Mr Sinjari said, “By coming here, Lufthansa has made the determination that Iraqi Kurdistan is a safe and secure place to work.” He added, “I commend Lufthansa for making the decision to bring their services to us, and to the people and business of Kurdistan and Iraq.”
A large group of guests assembled on the tarmac of Erbil International Airport (EIA) to hear speeches by officials and business representatives and watch the arrival of Lufthansa flight 696 from Frankfurt.
Mr Peter Andres, Lufthansa’s Vice President for Corporate Security, commented on Erbil’s hospitality and beauty. He thanked Austrian Airlines, which was the first regular scheduled carrier to the Kurdistan Region, for paving the way for other airlines, and said that Lufthansa plans to resume flights also to Baghdad this summer after a stoppage of many years. He noted the presence at the ceremony of Germany’s Consul General Dr Oliver Schnakenberg and officials from Germany’s Interior Ministry and Foreign Ministry.
Mr Stafford Clarry, Acting Director of the airport, described its evolution since its beginnings in 2005. School children are given tours of the airport, he said, as “They are our future, the airport is our future, and this airport is also your future.”
Mr Dilsos CEO and Managing Director of Zagros Group, said that in the Kurdistan Region and the rest of Iraq, German products signify quality and he was happy to see another quality German product here.
Lufthansa hosted a gala dinner the evening before the ceremony. The KRG’s Head of Foreign Relations Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir thanked Lufthansa for its important initiative, and Germany’s Consul General in Erbil for strengthening its relationship with the Kurdistan Region. He said, “Lufthansa is a wonderful bridge for our people to Germany and the rest of Europe,” promoting travel to Europe and enabling others to experience the Kurdistan Region in Iraq.
Dr Schnakenberg said, “Today both Baghdad and Erbil are now part of the businessman’s map”. The opening of the German Consulate General in Erbil last year showed how much Germany values its partnership with the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, and its contribution to their reconstruction.
Lufthansa now operates four flights a week between Frankfurt and Erbil.