Outgoing US Consul General Alexander Laskaris yesterday met with the Head of the Department of Foreign Relations, Minister Falah Mustafa, in order to bid farewell before his departure back to the United States of America.
The United States Regional Reconstruction Team (RRT) office in Erbil was upgraded to a full Consulate General on 10 July 2011, and the team leader Mr Laskaris became the first US Consul General to be posted in Kurdistan.
Minister Mustafa thanked Mr Laskaris for his continuous efforts to connect with the people of Kurdistan and to understand the region's history and culture. "On behalf of my colleagues I thank you and wish to re-iterate what President Barzani said during the US Independence Day Reception last week, commending you for the important role that you have played while stationed here in Kurdistan. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors," he said.
Mr Laskaris expressed his appreciation for the support of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and particularly the Department of Foreign Relations, during his tenure as RRT team leader and Consul General here in Kurdistan. He also discussed the important role that the Consulate General plays, given its geographic location, and expressed his confidence that his successor will help further increase mutual cooperation with the KRG.
Mr Paul Sutphin, the incoming Consul General, is a career Foreign Service officer, with wide ranging experience in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as on key issues in the wider region. He is scheduled to meet with local officials this week and will commence his duties accordingly.
As his last official act in the Region, prior to the meeting Consul General Laskaris signed an agreement regarding the allocation of land for the permanent premises of the US Consulate to be built on. Commenting on this agreement, Mr Laskaris said, "We thank the government of Kurdistan for allocating this land as part of enhancing our permanent diplomatic presence in Iraq including Baghdad, Basra and Erbil. We look forward to breaking ground and thank the leadership of the KRG for their continuing support and partnership."