Kurdistan Regional Government
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PM Barzani attends launch of Kurdish-American Caucus

SUN, 25 MAY 2008 22:43 | KRG Cabinet

Washington DC, US (KRG.org) - Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani capped a series of detailed and constructive meetings with President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, US officials and members of Congress by participating in the launch of the Congressional Kurdish-American Caucus.

“America and the Kurds share many common interests in Iraq and the region, so there was much to discuss,” said Prime Minister Barzani about his meetings in the White House. “There is an awareness and appreciation in Washington both of our accomplishments in the Kurdistan Region and the role that the Kurds are playing in Iraq. Our relationship with the United States has never been better.”

During his US visit, the Prime Minister also attended the launch of the Kurdish-American Congressional Caucus, a meeting with the US Chamber of Commerce and held meetings with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Secretary of Defense Robert Gates; Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, Senior Advisor on Iraq David Satterfield; National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley; Sens. Joseph Biden, Joseph Lieberman, Sam Brownback, Carl Levin, Mitch McConnell and Chuck Hagel; and Congressmen Howard Berman, Steny Hoyer and Roy Blunt. He also met members of the Kurdish community.

Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Department of Foreign Relations, said the depth of the meetings showed how determined the US and the Kurdistan Region are to move forward together. “We had excellent, detailed and productive meetings on political, economic and investment issues. They were both substantive and very friendly,” Mr Bakir said.

Bi-partisan Kurdish-American Caucus
Congressmen Lincoln Davis (D-TN.) and Joe Wilson (R-SC) took the occasion of the Prime Minister’s visit to launch the Kurdish-American Congressional Caucus. Congressman Davis said, “I was honoured that the Prime Minister visited the Capitol, and that he would take time out of his schedule to help inaugurate the Kurdish-American Caucus. I hope that this will stand as a symbol of continued friendship and cooperation between the United States and Iraq’s Kurdish people in our effort to bring peace and stability to a federated Iraq.”

Congressman Davis praised the role of Iraq’s Kurds in supporting the transition to a democratic Iraq, and recognised Kurdistan’s soldiers for fighting and dying alongside US troops to bring freedom to Iraq. At least two dozen members of the House of Representatives were among the guests who met the Prime Minister during a launch reception.

“We Kurds often like to say we have no friends but the mountains but today in Washington it is clear we have many, many friends,” Prime Minister Barzani said. “We have come a long way, but we all know we still have a long way to go. With our good friends and strong supporters, together we can continue on our path to democracy, a model economy and a place where all, no matter their religion, can call home.”

Mr Barzani visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, expressing solidarity with those who died by lighting a candle in remembrance of their suffering. Mr Barzani said, “My people, the Kurds of Iraq, understand what is like to be on the receiving end of a systematic, state-sponsored genocidal campaign. Saddam Hussein and his regime were inheritors of the evil of Nazi Germany, an evil which exists today, seeking opportunities to set back the progress of human dignity. Kurds faced torture and murder in Iraq under Saddam Hussein only because we were Kurds. We know that brutality has no limits. And we also know that the gift of freedom and democracy is to be treasured and never taken for granted.”

US Chamber of Commerce eyes investment opportunities
During a meeting with businessmen and women sponsored by the US Chamber of Commerce, the Prime Minister discussed a forthcoming US Commerce Department trade mission to the Kurdistan Region and reviewed the progress made in creating new opportunities for those seeking to invest. He gave the increasing investments from Turkey, Lebanon and the UAE as examples of growing international interest in the varied opportunities within Kurdistan.

Mr Barzani began his trip in Washington, Pennsylvania, where he received an honorary doctorate in public service from Washington & Jefferson College for his efforts to help the new Iraq move toward the shared goals of democracy, peace and prosperity, human rights and personal freedoms. He received a standing ovation for his remarks during the school’s commencement ceremony.

“We are building a bright future for ourselves and our children by devoting our attention to education, civil society, economic development and the rights of minorities and children,” he told the graduates. “We will build a society worthy of the effort you have made for our freedom – your sacrifices will not be in vain.”

The Prime Minister said that outreach and education efforts would continue from the KRG, especially through its Washington office headed by Mr Qubad Talabani.

Mr Talabani said the trip further strengthened ties between the allies and underscored the continued democratic development in the Kurdistan Region. “The reception the Prime Minister received, across the US government and the US business community, and the messages of support we heard from our friends in Washington, show a sincere appreciation for the leadership of the Kurdistan Region”, he said.

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