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Prime Minister’s speech at opening of French Embassy Office

SUN, 1 JUN 2008 21:33 | KRG Cabinet

Erbil, 1 June 2008

Speech by KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani

Dr Bernard Kouchner, Friend and Foreign Minister of France,
Mr Abdul Karim Hashim, Deputy Foreign Minister of Iraq,
Ambassador Jean François Girault, Ambassador of France to Iraq,
Mr Adnan Mufti, Speaker of the Kurdistan National Assembly,
Dr Frédéric Tissot, Head of the French Diplomatic Representative Office in our Region;
Consuls, heads of foreign embassy offices to the Kurdistan Region, distinguished guests, good evening and welcome.

Welcome to this ceremony and the opening of the French Diplomatic Representative Office here in the Kurdistan Region.

I am pleased and privileged, on behalf of the people the Kurdistan Region and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), to warmly welcome you, Minister Kouchner, and your accompanying delegation.

Dr Kouchner worked with Doctors Without Borders, Médecins Sans Frontières, and in 1974, when we had no friends but the mountains, he visited the Kurdistan Region for the first time and met with the late General Barzani.

His visit today reminds us of that time when our people faced grave challenges, and when he became a close friend of our people.

The visit by the Foreign Minister of France to our Region would be a special occasion in itself, but with our dear guest Minister Kouchner being the Foreign Minister of France on the one hand and a close friend to our people on the other; it makes it even more special.

Minister Kouchner visited the Kurdistan Region again in the late 1980s as part of the organisation Doctors of the World, Médecins du Monde. At that time, our people faced some of their darkest days, but Dr Kouchner worked hard to offer medical help.

As Dr Kouchner climbed the ranks within his government, he never forgot his friends. During the mass exodus of 1991, he was among the first European politicians who worked to make the world aware of the tragedies that had befallen the Kurdish people.

It was Dr Kouchner who urged the UN to put an end to the mass atrocities against the Kurdish people. He significantly contributed to UN Security Council Resolution 688, which was submitted by France and then adopted by the United Nations Security Council creating a legal basis for the process that led to the protection of nearly two million Kurdish refugees.

Minister Kouchner, we are very happy that today we are meeting you under quite different circumstances. Rest assured that your friends here in the Kurdistan Region warmly welcome you and we, as the people of the Kurdistan Region, all express our utmost appreciation and thanks for your tireless efforts. We are honoured by your friendship.

Today’s initiative by France is a step towards advancing relations between the people of the Kurdistan Region and the Republic of France. We are very happy that our friendship is being raised to a new level.

When we look at the past we remember the days when our people needed assistance and humanitarian aid from the international community.

Since 1991 we depended on handouts such as food, clothes and shelter, which were provided by our friends and by international humanitarian aid organisations. This noble decision supported us through our hard times.

But today the situation has changed. We in the Kurdistan Region have benefited from the opportunity that was made available to us and we have stepped away from our bitter past.

The humanitarian assistance at that time was very important and valuable to us, but with the liberation of Iraq, the people of the Kurdistan Region rose to the challenge presented to us and we took an active role in the process of rebuilding Iraq.

Today, we are living in a new phase but we continue to need the support of the international community in the process of reconstruction within the Kurdistan Region and all of Iraq.

Such participation will have a positive effect on our commitment to the law and the Constitution of the country. This will lead to peace and stability in the region. We know we have a long way to go, but we will continue in our efforts so that we can secure a bright future for our people.

We must benefit from this new stage of relations between France and the Kurdistan Region, both politically and economically. France is in a powerful position as a member to the Security Council and within the European Union. Your country can play an important role in helping us to develop our political process, democratic system and in encouraging French industries and investors to participate in Iraq’s reconstruction efforts of Iraq.

We are seeking stronger cultural and educational exchange programmes with France as well. Our students deserve advanced education opportunities like the rest of the world.

We hope that French universities can offer opportunities to the students of the Kurdistan Region to attend annually and be exposed to the latest developments in science and technology.

You are supporting a people that wants to live in peace with itself and with its neighbours; a people that respects human rights and the rule of law, and is making steps towards tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

These changes encourage us to work harder. We want to make up for the years of isolation we suffered in the past. The Kurdistan Region is quite rich and can offer many good opportunities to the international community, especially in the areas of natural resources, agriculture, tourism, construction and infrastructure development.

All of our efforts and activities are in accordance with the rights given to us by the Iraqi Constitution. While oil and gas were a source of pain and suffering in our past, today we are using the law in trying to transform them into sources of prosperity and capability.

We are absolutely committed to dealing with this issue on the condition that we can secure the rights of our people for the future. The position that we have taken is solely and only for the welfare and happiness of the Kurdistan Region and all of Iraq.

We do not want oil and gas to be the only sources of income for our Region’s economy. We want to benefit from all the natural resources from the Kurdistan Region and work to develop all the sectors.

Once again, I commend the Republic of France for deciding to open a diplomatic representative office in the Kurdistan Region. I thank the continuous efforts of the French Ambassador to Iraq and the Head of the Embassy Office here in Erbil.

I thank you for the political and humanitarian support that you have given to us over many years. We have great appreciation for all those French dignitaries who assisted our people in different ways during our most difficult times.

Dear Minister, I would like to assure you that the KRG is ready to provide all the necessary cooperation and support to ensure the success of your Representative Office here in the Kurdistan Region. Undoubtedly, this step is just the beginning of a new stage in our relations. We hope we can mutually benefit from this opportunity to develop bilateral relations and interests.

Once again, welcome to this event and thank you very much.

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Minister Kouchner opens French Embassy Office in Erbil

SUN, 1 JUN 2008 21:26

Erbil, Kurdistan – Iraq (KRG.org) - Dr Bernard Kouchner, France’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, today presided over the opening of the French Embassy Office in Erbil, capital of the Kurdistan Region. France has had a diplomatic presence in the Erbil for some time, and the opening of the Embassy Office signals its dedication to developing closer ties with the Kurdistan Region.