The United Arab Emirates and the Palestinian Authority opened consulates in Erbil last week in what Iraqi officials and political analysts say is the latest example of how increased diplomatic representation is enhancing Iraq's foreign relations.
"The opening of the two consulates comes in the framework of cooperation with the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the policy adopted by the regional government for openness to the outer world in general and the Arab world in particular," said Falah Mustafa, head of the Department of Foreign Relations in the Kurdish region. "It would also be a bridge for communication between the region and the countries concerned."
The announcement of the openings came after a meeting on February 5th between Emirati Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan and Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Maliki with Brahim Salih, the Kurdish region's prime minister.
"The opening of consulates and diplomatic missions is an important step for enhancing and consolidating relations," Mustafa told Mawtani. "We welcome and encourage such steps that help in the process of building and development, not only in Kurdistan, but all over Iraq."
Last October, France opened a consulate in Dhi Qar province as part of its efforts to enhance cooperation between the local government in Dhi Qar and the French government. France later expressed a desire to open another consulate in Anbar province.
Armenia also expressed interest in opening a consulate in Dhi Qar province last December, and coordination is now under way with the provincial government to realize that goal.
Germany is also strengthening its ties to the region. German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Dirk Niebel said in a press conference last week in Erbil that the German Society for International Cooperation was preparing to open an office in the city next May.
"Germany will send experts to Erbil to support human development programs in the region and all over Iraq and to promote its activities in the country," Niebel said.
Erbil hosts 20 consulates and a number of secondary offices of foreign embassies, including ones from Turkey, Germany, Egypt, Italy, Sweden, France, Britain, South Korea and Russia.
"The opening of consulates in the region will help facilitate the flow of trade and operation of capital," said political analyst Ribin Rasoul. "The government in the region is providing many facilities, such as the basic requirements, which are almost free of charge."
Citizens in Erbil said the recent developments were positive for the region and all Iraqis.
"The increase in the number of consulates in the region will help facilitate travel for us as young people to get to see the world," said Arshad Suran, 32, a university student in Erbil. "It is also an important step for investment in the region and the restoration of infrastructure to the area."
Saman Ibrahim, 33, a resident of Erbil, noted the multifaceted importance of strengthening diplomatic ties.
"The opening of consulates in a number of areas across the country, including the Kurdistan region, has special importance given that it provides these areas with greater investment opportunities through what it achieves in terms of economic, scientific and developmental cooperation with different countries," he said.