If other citizens of Iraq had the same social benefits – stability, regular electricity supply, development – as those in the Kurdistan Region, it would help the entire political process in the country, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolai Mladenov said after a meeting on January 24 2013 with the prime minister of the Kurdish regional government, Nechervan Idris Barzani.
The two sides agreed that Bulgaria would as soon as possible open a consulate in the region. In Sofia, an office of the Kurdistan Regional Government will be opened, similar to those in other European capitals to further cultural and business contacts.
We have need of Bulgarian expertise in the field of agriculture, to revive the sector, Barzani said. There was discussion of the possibilities of using Bulgarian capacity in the construction of hydro-electric power stations and irrigation systems.
The Kurdistan regional government can make use of programmes that Bulgaria has for the training of police officers.
Earlier, Mladenov met Arsalan Baiz, president of the parliament of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
Mladenov discussed with his hosts the situation in Syria. He expressed concern that the crisis in Syria could easily spread to Iraq if the political crisis continues.
The visit to Erbil on January 24 followed the re-opening the previous day of Bulgaria’s embassy in Baghdad.
The opening of the Bulgarian Embassy in Iraq is the most important step in on the road to being a friendly country, Mladenov said at the opening ceremony.
The two countries have maintained diplomatic relations since 1958, but since 2003 Bulgaria has had no diplomatic mission operating in Iraq. After so many missions have been closed because of financial constraints, I am glad that we have been able to open the embassy here, Mladenov said at the opening ceremony, which was attended by Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari and the head of the EU Delegation, Jana Hybáškova.
Earlier in the day, Mladenov had meetings with the president of the council of representatives, Iraq’s Parliament, Usama al-Nujayfi, deputy prime minister Hussain Ibrahim Saleh al-Shahristani and foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari.
Bulgarian companies are welcome in Iraq, because in the coming years we will be accelerating the reconstruction of our country, Shahristani said. He also proposed holding a meeting with Bulgarian business in one of Iraq’s major cities.
If you do not have an embassy, there is no way that your businesses will set up here, so opening an embassy is an excellent step towards your return to the Middle East, Shahristani said. He said that Iraq needs specialists in construction, as well as in agriculture, infrastructure and communications.
Bulgaria could contribute to building institutional capacity in the Iraqi parliament. This was requested of Foreign Minister Mladenov by his counterpart, Zebari. They discussed the situation in the region, and the impact of the conflict in Syria on the stability of Iraq.
“Your country needs to be making more evident its progress in transition to democracy to the countries in the Middle East and North Africa,” Minister Mladenov said at his meeting with Iraqi parliament president Usama al-Nujayfi. You have achieved something very important, and that is that disputes are taking place mainly in the political arena, Mladenov said.
(Main photo, of the citadel of the old city in Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan: Jim Gordon)