The new head of the European Union Delegation to Iraq, Ambassador Jana Hybášková, paid her first visit to the Kurdistan Region to discuss political and economic ties.
In a meeting with Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani, recent developments, the current programs and role of the EU in Iraq, and the relationship between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad were discussed.
President Barzani thanked Ambassador Hybášková for the projects that the European Union is supporting in Iraq, especially in the Kurdistan Region, and said that Kurdistan wishes to develop strong relations with the EU, emphasising that there are many areas for cooperation.
Ms Hybášková stated that the EU is very focused on security and stability in Iraq, and she commended President Barzani and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for their work to prioritise these issues in the Region and for developing policies that have led to an economic and infrastructural boom.
Ambassador Hybášková said that she was impressed at the pace of development in the Kurdistan Region, which has been made possible by its sustained security. She also commented that the EU is closely monitoring developments in the oil and gas sector and said that they hope an agreement can soon be reached on a federal hydrocarbons law.
During her visit to the Region, the new Ambassador also attended a meeting with the Head of the Department of Foreign Relations, Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, and the KRG Representative to the European Union, Mr Salim Gravi.
Minister Bakir welcomed Ms Hybášková and conveyed his appreciation for her visit and for the role that the EU plays in Iraq. He also emphasised the importance of the EU’s continued engagement, and encouraged them to open an official representation in Erbil in order to facilitate cooperation.
Talking about the EU Ambassador’s visit to Halabja, both sides discussed the tragic history of the people of the Kurdistan Region, particularly under the hands of the former regime. Minister Bakir said, “It is important to ensure that these crimes are documented in order to ensure that they never happen again,” and he requested the EU’s support for recognising these acts as genocide.
Mr Bakir reiterated the Region’s commitment to a federal, democratic and pluralistic Iraq and said, “Having suffered under repeated centralised systems, we want to ensure that all the people of Iraq enjoy equal opportunities through devolving political authority as is required by the Iraqi constitution.”
Ambassador Hybášková expressed her delight at finally visiting the Kurdistan Region and seeing the remarkable developments in the Region firsthand. She also reiterated the EU’s commitment to helping all Iraqis and confirmed that her role is to ensure that the voices of people across Iraq are heard by Europe.
Commenting on the Region’s relations with the international community, Mr Bakir said, “We have an open-door policy to all nations, and we gladly welcome individuals, officials and businesses to unite with us in developing the Region’s potential and to use this Region as a launching pad for their operations in the rest of Iraq.”
During her two-day visit to the Kurdistan Region, Ambassador Hybášková also met the KRG Minister for Natural Resources Dr Ashti Hawrami in order to discuss recent developments in Kurdistan's oil and gas sector.