Kurdistan Regional Government
MON, 19 MAR 2018 19:41 Erbil, GMT +3

President Barzani and Prime Minister Erdogan open Erbil International Airport and Turkish Consulate

WED, 30 MAR 2011 01:58 | KRG Cabinet

Erbil, Kurdistan – Iraq (KRG.org) – Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a historic visit today became the first Turkish premier to visit the Kurdistan Region. Together with President Masoud Barzani, they officially opened Erbil International Airport (EIA) and Turkey’s Consulate in Erbil.

After welcoming Prime Minister Erdoğan and the rest of the distinguished guests, President Barzani said that he was very pleased that the Prime Minister joined him in launching the Erbil International Airport on this historic day. He said, “This [airport] is the first step to building a strong infrastructure in all of Iraq, and especially in the Kurdistan Region, and it is a key to many large scale projects to develop the Kurdistan Region and Iraq as a whole.”

Regarding Prime Minister Erdoğan’s visit, the President said, “We consider this to be a very historic moment. We believe that this visit will build a very solid bridge in bilateral relations between Iraq and Turkey and between the Kurdistan Region and Turkey especially.” The President commended Prime Minister Erdoğan for his courageous policies in Turkey and the wider region. Due to the Prime Minister’s wise decisions Turkey is playing a strategic role in the region, and the region wishes him success in the upcoming elections, he said.

Prime Minister Erdoğan said “We have historical and cultural bonds with Iraq, and with this beautiful region, now we’ll be connected by airways. But, I don’t want to call it airways, rather I want to call it ‘the way of the citizens,’ and through this way of the citizens we will be connected to each other and connected to the rest of the world.” He went on to say that Turkish Airlines would begin flights to the new airport on April 14th this year.

After the inauguration of the new airport, President Barzani joined the Turkish Prime Minister and his delegation at the opening ceremony for Turkey’s new Consulate General in Erbil. The leaders marked the event as another significant step in the mutually beneficial commercial and political relationship between the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the Republic of Turkey

In his speech at the opening of the new consulate, Prime Minister Erdoğan said, “Last year Turkey did more than $7 billion worth of business in Iraq, and more than half of that with the northern provinces. There are more than 20,000 Turkish workers currently holding permits to work in Erbil governorate, and more than 35,000 if Dohuk and Suleimaniah are included.” As this demonstrates, there is a strong economic relationship between Turkey and this region, he said. The consulate already issues visas to Iraqi citizens, which has helped to strengthen ties.

Following the public events, President Barzani and Prime Minister Erdoğan held a private meeting to discuss bilateral relations, economic ties and cooperation on energy.

Prime Minister Erdoğan's visit to the Kurdistan Region was part of a two-day trip to Iraq. His delegation included the Minister of State for Foreign Trade Zafer Ҫağlayan, the Minister for Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz, as well as Members of Parliament, advisers, and business leaders. He was also accompanied by the Ambassador to Iraq Murat Ozcelik, Consul General to Erbil Aydin Selcen, and Several MPs.

Turkey’s Minister of State for Foreign Trade Zafer Çağlayan also attended the opening ceremonies of a Turkish school and two Turkish banks. Turkey’s Minister for Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz met the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Minister for Natural Resources Dr Ashti Hawrami to discuss energy cooperation.

While the new Erbil International Airport has been operational for several months already, it was officially inaugurated today. It was built to serve as a gateway for Iraq to the world, and it currently supports almost fifty weekly flights to and from more than twenty international destinations, eight of these being major international hubs in Europe. The airport boasts the world’s fifth longest civilian runway and the facilities are capable of serving up to three million passengers a year. It was designed by the British Scott Wilson Group, and was built by Turkey’s Makyol Cengiz. Erbil International Airport has a contract with Seoul's Incheon International Airport Corporation for its management and operations.

The Turkish Prime Minister and his delegation were greeted at the airport by President Barzani, Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament Kamal Kirkuki, Prime Minister Barham Salih, and many other KRG officials.

Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, the KRG’s Head of Foreign Relations, said, “With this historic visit, we are entering a new phase in our relations with Turkey. We are optimistic because it paves the way for greater cooperation between Turkey and the Kurdistan Region as well as all of Iraq.”

The ministers and officials who joined President Barzani and Prime Minister Erdoğan at the airport ceremony included:

Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament Dr Kamal Kirkuki
Prime Minister Barham Salih
Mr Kosrat Rasul Ali, Deputy Secretary General of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
Former Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani
Minister of Peshmerga Affairs Jafar Mustafa Ali
Minister for the Interior Karim Sinjari
Head of the Security Protection Agency Masrour Barzani
The President’s Chief of Staff Dr Fuad Hussein
Minister of Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami
Minister of Trade and Industry Sinan Çelebi
Minister of Education Safeen Dizayee
Higher Education Minister Dr Dlawer Ala'aldin
Head of Foreign Relations Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir
Chairman of the Investment Board Herish Muharam
Governor of Erbil Nawzad Hadi
Mr Falakaddin Kakaye, Head of the Kurdish-Turkish Friendship Association.

The ceremonies were also attended by many other regional and international officials and dignitaries.

Click here to see the photo gallery of the event.