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5 October 2010 - Dr Ashti Hawrami is Minister for Energy Resources for the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) and will be speaking alongside Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt and Nadhim Zahawi MP at a fringe meeting on October 5th 2010 at the Conservative Party annual conference. 

Iraq’s Kurds have a great and long-standing respect for Britain. In particular, we remember the role of Sir John Major in helping to establish the Kurdish safe haven in 1991 when millions were in grave danger. Now that the major British and American military role in Iraq has ended, Kurds want Britain to trade and engage with, not turn away from, Iraq’s emerging federal democratic state. We believe that Britain would benefit from a strategic political and economic partnership with Kurdistan and Iraq. 

Our success will be your success. It will be vital for stability in the immediate neighborhood and could galvanise long overdue reform throughout the Middle East, whose potential is being wasted on a huge scale. 

As Minister of Natural Resources in the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, I will be at the Conservative party conference to discuss ways in which these goals can be met. 

With trade the new focus of UK foreign policy, I believe that the Conservative-led coalition must strengthen Britain’s partnership with the Kurdistan Region and Iraq so that it can capitalize on our booming economy, energy resources and geostrategic importance, and so that it can maximise relations with its other allies in the region, such as Turkey. 

Our message to British business is this: the Kurdistan Region is the gateway to Iraq. Take advantage of our security and stability, our attractive investment incentives, our business-friendly approach, and set up base here. You will tap into Kurdistan’s growing market and be ideally positioned for doing business with the rest of Iraq. 

I will also be urging my friends and counterparts in the Coalition to work closely with Britain’s EU partners to invigorate moves toward a proper European energy policy. The substantial reserves of gas discovered in the Kurdistan Region since 2003 can play a major role in helping Europe secure its energy supplies. 

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq is a worthy ally. Since 2003, not one foreign soldier has been killed in our area, which is safe and secure even by Western standards. Having fought alongside US and British forces in the liberation of Iraq, the Kurdish security forces, or peshmerga, have played an important role in combating terrorism and contributing to the stability of the whole country. Kurdish politicians have been working with their Arab partners in Baghdad to secure the foundations of Iraqi democracy. 

Our federal region is progressing at a breathtaking pace. From a standing start four years ago, Kurdistan’s oil and gas industry has developed to the point where we can export 100,000 barrels of oil per day. By 2014, Kurdistan will be able to export at least 1 million barrels per day. This means a large increase in revenues for Iraq as a whole, given that the country is currently producing just over 2 million barrels of oil per day. 

Our fast developing oil and gas industry is leading the way in creating private-sector business opportunities not just in Kurdistan but across Iraq. 

Some 40 foreign companies from 17 different countries are committed to investing some $10 billion in the energy sector in the Kurdistan Region. 

(I would urge British business to look in particular at the field of oil and gas services in Kurdistan.) 

The Kurdistan Region has also attracted more than $12bn-worth of non-oil investments from local and foreign investors over the last three-and-a-half years, mainly in housing, agriculture and banking. This is largely thanks to a liberal foreign investment law ratified in 2006, with incentives for foreign investors including ownership of land, a 10-year tax break and the repatriation of profits. 

Yet, these economic opportunities are being exploited less by Britain, who actually liberated the country from brutal dictatorship, than by its European competitors such as France and Germany, as well as other states in the Middle and Far East. 

Initially wary after the removal of the Baathist regime in Baghdad, Turkey, Britain’s closest ally in the region, has been the quickest to embrace the new realities of the region. It has built a sustainable relationship of mutual interests with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), one based on trade, security and strategic co-operation. 

The Kurdistan Region, in this context, has proven that it can be a crucial partner to Turkey and indeed the broader international community. 

We are greatly encouraged by the strong support given by both David Cameron and William Hague for Turkey’s goal of becoming a member of the EU. The foreign secretary has argued that Turkish accession would create new opportunities for exporters and investors, and link the UK and Europe to markets and especially energy sources in central Asia and the Near East. 

With Europe’s energy consumption expected to rocket over the next few decades, it is clear that new and more diverse sources of energy are urgently required. 

The Russian-Ukrainian dispute over gas supplies in 2009 was an important wake-up call. 

Estimates put KRG gas reserves between 3-6 trillion cubic meters. The KRG can meet the long-term gas supply needs of Turkey and Europe, as a reliable alternative to the existing gas suppliers. 

We are currently in negotiations with major European energy companies to export gas to Turkey and Europe through the Nabucco pipeline. For Kurdistan and Iraq the prospect of being at the centre of the EU’s future energy plans is an unparalleled opportunity. 

The recognition of the strategic importance of Iraqi Kurdistan has blossomed in recent years and hope for a bright and just future is replacing the dread and fear of the old times. It is often said that the Kurds have no friends but the mountains, to which they have been forced to flee all too often. More and more investors and other partners are now flying over those mountains to trade and exchange ideas. It is time British businessmen joined their ranks. 


As per KRG's agreement with the Iraqi government and under the 2015 Budget Law


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