How would you define the current political relations between Erbil and Washington D.C.?
There is a very positive perception of Kurdistan among Americans today, among the Administration, Congress and the public. The fact that the Peshmerga are so effective and courageous against ISIS and that Kurdistan has embraced vast numbers of displaced people, especially the minorities, has helped to foster a great deal of respect for the people and leadership of Kurdistan. There are many high-level political meetings and visits on both sides, which help to keep this momentum going.
What are your Representation’s top priorities to further strengthen and elevate the bilateral ties?
Our immediate goals are to continue to strengthen the partnership with the United States in the fields of security and humanitarian assistance. We are grateful to the United States for the leadership it has shown in the fight against ISIS and for providing humanitarian aid. We need that security and humanitarian assistance to continue and to grow. Kurdistan has seen a 30 percent increase in its population due to the arrival of refugees and displaced people, notably Christians, Yezidis, and other minorities. Both the displaced and host communities need help. In the longer term, our aim is to broaden the commercial and cultural ties between Kurdistan and the United States and to create a better understanding among Americans of what Kurdistan is and what our aspirations are.
Our immediate goals are to continue to strengthen the partnership with the U.S. in the fields of security and humanitarian assistance. We are very grateful to the U.S. for the leadership it has shown in the fight against ISIS and for providing humanitarian aid.
Are there any business-related advocacy issues you would like to take up with Washington D.C.? Where do you believe the US business involvement in the Kurdistan Region will head in the future?
There are some business related issues and wider issues affecting Kurdistan’s economy. The economy faced several shocks in 2014 which we are trying to recover from. The United States and other countries could help the KRG by providing technical assistance as we try to revive the economy. Kurdistan is still lacking in a vibrant banking and insurance sector which is another area that needs support and expertise. There is interest in doing business in Kurdistan. We have had meetings and discussions with the US Chamber of Commerce and the US-Kurdistan Business Council as well as with individual investors and companies. Already there are American companies working in Kurdistan, for example, in energy and hospitality. There are many other sectors that American businesses could consider, including healthcare, agriculture and education.
Have you noticed any misconception among the US business community regarding the security situation in the Kurdistan Region? What is your key message to the US business community?
It’s generally understood that Kurdistan is stable and that the Peshmerga, with the support of US and Coalition airstrikes, are keeping ISIS out of Kurdistani territory. But capital is coward and the way to encourage the business community to engage with Kurdistan is by providing information about our laws, regulations and business opportunities as well as putting into context news about events in Kurdistan and Iraq. It also helps to connect business people with each other by bringing Kurdish trade delegations to the United States and taking American delegations to Kurdistan. If there is one message to the US business community it’s that Kurdistan remains open for business and a warm welcome awaits our American friends.