ERBIL, Kurdistan Region--Japan opened its consulate in the Kurdish capital of Erbil on Wednesday following meetings between the country’s Foreign Minister Kentaro Sonoura and senior Kurdish officials, including the president and prime minister.
In a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and other senior officials, the Japanese consulate opened its doors for the first time on Wednesday, joining dozens of other countries who have representation in the Kurdistan Region.
Earlier in the day, President Masoud Barzani received Sonoura and his accompanying delegation to discuss bilateral relations and the ongoing war against ISIS.
“Part of Mr. Sonoura's visit to the Kurdistan Region was to officially open the Consulate of Japan to the Kurdistan Region which will inevitably lead to opening more doors of cooperation between the Kurdistan Region and Japan,” a statement from the Kurdish presidency read.
Japan has provided Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region, with what it terms “strategic loans” to help rebuild infrastructure, including a major water treatment project in Halabja worth more than $100 million.
PM Barzani expressed his appreciation to Japan for their continued support, “including Tokyo’s insistence on guaranteeing Kurdistan Region’s share in the loans lent to Iraq,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement following his meeting with Sonoura.
Baghdad and Erbil have had disagreements since 2014 over the distribution of the country’s revenue and budget, which was then extended to whether or not Baghdad will share with the Kurdish government foreign loans received as part of packages to help finance Iraq’s struggling economy following low oil prices and the war against ISIS.
Last week the Iraqi government was given a loan guarantee worth $1 billion from the US, but it is not clear whether Erbil will receive its fair share, although the US State Department said on Tuesday it would include the Kurdish region.
“[W]e believe that the sovereign loan guarantee will help the Government of Iraq meet its – the needs of all Iraqis, and by all Iraqis I mean including those in the Kurdistan Region,” Deputy State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner said.
According to official figures, trade between Kurdistan Region and Japan was more than $150 million in 2015.