KRG Prime Minister’s speech at Ceremony celebrating inclusion of Erbil Citadel in World Heritage List of UNESCO

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Good evening and welcome to you all.

I am happy and pleased to participate here today with you in this event. We are witnessing another success in Kurdistan, as we are seeing another important and big step by Kurdistan towards the rest of the world which is the recognition of the historical Citadel of Erbil as a World Heritage Site, enabling it to formally become part of the archeological and cultural history of the world.

The recognition and inclusion of the Erbil Citadel on the World Heritage List is a source of pride and great honour for Erbil, Kurdistan, the people of Kurdistan, Iraq and even the larger Middle East. It is an important and worthy event.

The Citadel of Erbil is a place with a long history, over 6000 years old, putting its roots in the history books. Tens of leaders, rulers, emperors and world leaders have passed by the Citadel during different periods in history. The Citadel was used as a fortress to defend Erbil and its people and helped defeat the strongest and most dangerous armies. It always remained a proud symbol in the middle of Erbil.

In recent history, a significant number of personalities and famous figuresfrom theCitadelhave served Kurdistan in various fields. The lifestyle and the culture of the Citadel became an important part of the daily live of the people, society and culture in Erbil. The Citadel has frequently been mentioned in Kurdish literature and traditional songs.

It is the right of the people of Erbil and Kurdistan to be proud of this achievement ofErbil Citadel being listed in the World Heritage List, and that it has become the property of all humanity.

On this occasion on behalf of myself, the Kurdistan Regional Government and the people of Kurdistan, I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the UNESCO and the High Commission for Erbil Citadel Revitalization specially Mr. Dara Yaqobi who heads this Commission and his colleagues who worked tirelessly to ensure the recognition of the Erbil Citadel as a World Heritage Site. I would like to also thank the Iraqi Board of Archaeology, the Iraqi Permanent Mission to UNESCO and all the countries which helped the revitalization of Citadel, Erbil Governor, the relevant authorities and those countries which voted for the Citadel of Erbil to be on the list of World Heritage Sites.

Also, by the name of the people of Kurdistan and Erbil, I would also like to warmly welcome the Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova who ispresent today at this ceremony and who helped greatly on this issue. We thank her and welcome her to Kurdistan and Iraq.

Distinguished guests,

While we mark today an important cultural milestone and celebrate this success, we cannot not mention the situation which our country and the region pass through. We are currently confronting a vicious and dark terror. In these circumstances Kurdistan has become the front line of the international coalition’s war against terror and the brave Peshmerga of Kurdistan are fighting on behalf of the world and humanity, defending the land and people of Kurdistan and the principles of the free world. They are sacrificing their lives every day and they are now also alongside their brothers and sisters supporting Kobane where they are fighting and defending themselves together.

During these circumstances, the first condition in order for us to succeed is to ensure the national unity of all the various Kurdish political parties as well as the people of Kurdistan. The support and assistance of our friends across the world and in the region has allowed the Peshmerga to bravely fight in the battlefields with the spirit of ‘Either Kurdistan or death.’ They are making progress on a daily basis and day by day they will continue to defeat the terrorists.

To achieve greater success and defeating the terrorists the Peshmerga needs heavy weaponry, training and more assistance from our friends and the international community. Here again, I would like to thank the international coalition and all our friends who have helped us militarily or through humanitarian assistance, but we are hoping that they provide us with further assistance.

Another issue that has made the current situation difficult is the decision early this year by theIraqi federal government to cut the budget of the Kurdistan Region as well as the salaries of the KRG employees. This is a failed policy, as they used the livelihoods of the people of Kurdistan as a pressure card against the Kurdistan Regional Government becauseof political disputes. Baghdad accused the Kurdistan Region of having sold oil independently, which is far from reality. The Kurdistan Region began to export oil only after Bagdad government cut our budget, which forced the Kurdistan Regional Government to start selling its oil. However the patience of the people of Kurdistan and their endurance regarding the lack of salaries being paid on time has proven the failure of this wrong policy.  This policy along with other failed policies by Baghdad resulted in huge political, security and economic disasters across Iraq.

I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the citizens, employees and people of Kurdistan and reiterate my appreciation for their patience and understanding during this economic embargo. Thanks to the businessmen, companies and contractors, whom despite the lack of budget, continued their work in the process of the reconstruction of Kurdistan, and who did not stop their operations.

Here I would like to tell the people of Kurdistan, after long efforts, the Kurdistan Regional Government is close to solving the financial crisis and in the near future, this issue will be resolved. I would like again to ensure the employees of the Kurdistan Regional Government that none of their salaries will be lost and that they will receive their complete salaries.

Distinguished guests,

We in the Kurdistan Region have preserved our national unity and formed our broad-based government, and decided jointly to participate together in the new Iraqi federal government. We reiterate that the Kurdistan Region is willing and ready to solve all the outstanding issues with Baghdad through dialogue based on a proper understanding of the reality of the disputes.

We see our participation in the new federal Iraqi government as a chance to come together to solve the outstanding issues and where we can reach a solution which is in the benefit of all Iraq and all of us. An Iraq that can learn from the previous mistakes and act in a way to save the country from the disaster that it is currently passing through.

Again I would like to welcome you all and a heartfelt congratulations to the people of Kurdistan and Erbil. Its Citadel will be a part of the culture of humanity and property of the world. I am confident that a bright future, more success and progress are ahead of us.

I would like to wish you all a pleasant evening. Thank you very much.

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