U.S. committed to partnership with Erbil, Baghdad to realize economic potential of KRG: official

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Mark Menezes speaks during a virtual conference, November 23, 2020.

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes said the department remains committed to its partnership with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government in Baghdad.

“DOE remains committed to its partnership with #Erbil & #Baghdad to realize the economic potential of the KRG,” Menezes said in a tweet on Monday after his participation in a virtual conference on Post-COVID-19 Economic Priorities in Kurdistan Region.

The U.S. Chamber’s U.S.-Iraq Business Council held a virtual conference dubbed Post-COVID-19 Priorities in the Kurdistan Region on Monday. The conference will also continue on Tuesday.

High-levels officials from the KRG, U.S. government and leading American companies that are doing business in the Region also participate in the virtual conference.

Officials would discuss enabling the keys to economic growth, investment opportunities in the Kurdistan Region, prioritizing food security, and the future of U.S.-Iraq energy partnerships, according to the U.S. chamber.

Menezes said during the virtual conference that the United States “enormously hopeful” that the KRG and federal government would work together to implement reform necessary for vital projects to proceed.

“We are hopeful as well that continued progress of this kind will attract even more investment so northern Iraq can fulfil its enormous potential,” he added.

The Kurdistan Region’s economic diversification form signaled last week the Region’s desire to take the critically important step of developing wider ranges of energy sources, in addition to oil and gas, according to the U.S. official.

“Doing so, it only help make the Region a great energy hub which in turn will attract investment in non-energy sectors as well,” Menezes said.

The U.S. official also said “the more that the Kurdistan Region develops its gas resources and the closer it gets to being a regional energy hub, the least dependent federal Iraq will be on Iranian gas imports.”

Iraq relies on Iranian energy supplies for its struggling power grid. The United States has repeatedly extended sanctions waiver for Iraq to continue importing Iranian energy. On Nov. 20, Washington had given Baghdad a 45-day waiver in order to allow Iraq to engage in financial transactions related to the import of electricity from Iran.

The United States has insisted that oil-rich Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest producer, move towards self-sufficiency as a condition for its exemption for importing Iranian energy. Iraq relies heavily on Iranian gas to feed several power stations.

“Put it in another way, energy security can enhance national security,” Menezes noted. “That is why our Department of Energy is proud to be developing a natural gas study for the Kurdistan Region, with feedbacks from all of the Region commercial partners.”

“As we look to the future and to a full recovery from COVID-19, it is our hope that we can build on the momentum with Erbil and Baghdad to realize the full economic potential of the Kurdistan Region,” he said.

“The United States Government sees this potential and the American companies do as well. They are investing already and many more are eager to do likewise and ensure Kurdistan’s future.”

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