In partnership with the American-Kurdistan Friendship Association (AKFA), the United States Consulate General in Erbil tonight hosted a reception to celebrate the 236th anniversary of the US Declaration of Independence.
Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani joined the US Chargé d' Affaires to Iraq, Robert Stephen Beecroft, and US Consul General Alex Laskaris, along with a large number of ministers and senior officials to celebrate the occasion at the Erbil Rotana Hotel. According to custom, the celebration concluded with a fireworks display that was sponsored by the AKFA.
Speaking at the event, President Barzani congratulated the United States on achieving its independence 236 years ago and said, "Other people and other nations in the world have struggled and have sacrificed for this same objective, some have been able to achieve it before you, some have achieved it after you, and some are still struggling to achieve this objective."
Commenting on the US's official policy toward the Region, the President said, "I do realize that your support for the Kurdistan Region is within the framework of Iraq, and I do agree with that. It should be within the framework of Iraq, but provided that Iraq is federal and democratic. I would like to assure you that the people of the Kurdistan Region are not a threat to the unity of Iraq; it is dictatorship which is a threat to the unity of this country."
"I would also like you to remember the reality that as much as you value freedom, the Kurdish people likewise value freedom and liberty," he concluded.
Consul General Laskaris announced at the event that he will be leaving his post soon. He thanked Minister Falah Mustafa, the Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations, for the Department's support during his tenure. He also commended the progress that the Kurdistan Region continues to see and thanked its people for the warm friendship that he received from them.
"I have not been to every town and village in the Region, and I have not met every man, woman and child' but I sure tried my best," he said. Adding, "I have been in the homes of the wealthy and the poor, the powerful and the humble. "I walked in the footsteps of my ancestors and in the footsteps of the prophets. In every home and every office, I was treated as a friend and honoured guest."
Speaking of the liberation of Iraq from the former regime, he said, "That liberation is indeed a gift, but one that brings with it a demand that those who were liberated must never tolerate authoritarianism, that a land made free must remain free."
It is not my place to lecture you on the cost of freedom. From Halabja to Sheikh Wassan and to Topzawa, you have paid the price many times over. I believe that the people of the Kurdistan Region, and all of Iraq, now deserve the full blessings of liberty," he concluded.
Mr Laskaris became the US Consul General last year when the United States upgraded its Regional Reconstruction Team in Erbil to a full diplomatic representation. The US works through its representation to promote humanitarian and reconstruction work in the Region, as well as to provide a direct line of communication with the Kurdistan Regional Government and offer some support to US businesses operating in the Region. The Consulate will upgrade its services later this year to include issuing visas and providing greater support services to US citizens and investors in the Region.
The event was attended by a large number of KRG Ministers and other local officials as well as local diplomats and representatives of business, university, civil society and religious groups, as well as members of the Kurdish and local American communities.