The Kurdish Globe
According to Sayid Azim Husseini, consul general of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Kurdistan Region's capital city, Erbil, the Region's share in trade volume between Iraq and Iran exceeds 70 percent.
In an interview with Hawler Newspaper, Husseini said the volume of commercial transactions between the two countries have boosted tenfold during the past six years, and "they are getting better, day by day."
Globe: What is the level of trade between Iran and the Kurdistan Region?
Husseini: Our trade relations with Iraq, as well as Kurdistan Region, are very good because it plays an important role in developing Iraq's economy. Thank God, the Iranian companies are now coming to Kurdistan and southern Iraq more than they used to in the past. If there is an equal state on the Iraqi-Iranian borders, definitely our trade relations will become much better.
The volume of trade between the two countries is officially $7 billion, but we believe the actual number in general is more than $10 billion, out of which 70 percent is with Kurdistan Region.
Globe: How many Iranian companies are currently present in Kurdistan?
Husseini: There are 500 active Iranian companies in the Region, and the number is increasing steadily.
Globe: A few years have passed since high-ranking Iranian officials last visited Kurdistan. Does that relate to a weakening of the relations?
Husseini: No, we have no problem, and I believe that with the new cabinet led by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, we will have a better environment for political and economic relations, although these relations have been strong in the past as well.
Globe: Are there any plans for high-ranking Iranian officials to visit Kurdistan?
Husseini: We have relations on a continual basis, and a few months ago, His Excellency Barzani visited Tehran. Possibly a high-ranking Iranian trade delegation will visit Kurdistan Region in the near future. Besides, there will be a trade fair for Iranian companies in the Region next month, which will be attended by Iranian figures on the provincial and national levels who will conduct political and business meetings with the Region's authorities and will sign various agreements and memorandums of understanding. Such relations will continue.
Globe: Why didn't Iran allow the opening of an official border point between Iran and the Region in Halabja?
Husseini: There are currently three official border points, as well as a number of other points, between Iran and Kurdistan for trade activities, so I don't think we are now in need of opening other border points.
Globe: Have you taken any steps to arrange cultural activities in the Region?
Husseini: We have talked about cultural activities with Salahaddin University and other universities in the Region, and we have expressed our willingness to open libraries for the Persian departments of the universities. We are currently waiting for the universities' feedback about paving the way for such a project. With the help of God, as a first stage, those libraries will be established, and at a later stage, when we can open the Cultural Center of the Islamic Republic in Erbil, we will be able to expand the cultural activities.
Globe: When will that center be established?
Husseini: Initial approval has been granted by the Council of Ministers, and we are ready. However, the procedures take a while here and we are waiting.
Globe: Why is the Iranian army still shelling Kurdistan's border areas?
Husseini: There has never been shelling, and what is happening are mainly clashes on the border, which have stopped for a year now. I hope that with the mutual work between the KRG and Iranian authorities, our borders become borders of peace, security, prosperity, trade and brotherhood, and not to allow our enemies to interfere in this peace and prosperity. Iraqi authorities have promised us not to allow their soil be used against us, and as long as this promise is in place, there will be no clashes on our borders.
Globe: Do you think Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is moving towards dictatorship?
Husseini: The Iraqi Parliament is formed from its people's representatives and according to the Iraqi Constitution this parliament is who selects the prime minister. If they come to a belief that something is done against the Constitution, they can find a solution in the Constitution itself.
Globe: Doesn't Iran interfere in Iraq and KRG's affairs?
Husseini: If by this you mean the interference that the enemies talk about, as I have already told you, there is no such thing. What is promising is that our trade and political ties improve on a daily basis, and especially the friendly relationship between the people from both sides is very strong. Approximately 2 million people travel between the two countries annually. And this means the people like each other and when we hear groundless talk sometimes, they are of no value.