Q:What specific plans do you have, apart from measures you have already taken, to attract foreign investment into Kurdistan?

A:We are now engaged in streamlining our government operations and contracting procedures. We are very much focused on developing a more friendly environment for investment in the energy sector. Tourism is also becoming a major interest and, with the growing purchasing power of Iraqis, we are witnessing a revival of tourists coming to Kurdistan. So the demand is outgrowing the supply very fast, with towns and attractions not yet ready for so many tourists. The agrarian economy, I believe, also represents an important opportunity and we are encouraging investment in that area too. Housing and banking are also very important. We have also improved our relationships with Baghdad and are mindful of attracting Iraqi investors to Kurdistan, who will use it as a hub and gateway to the rest of the region.

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Q:How would you describe your relationships with other countries with Kurdish populations, especially Turkey and Iran?

A:Our relationship with the Turks has been transformed, and there is evidence of this in Turkish investment. The web of economic relations that have been developed between us and Turkey are amazing. The relationship has grown steadily over the years and we want Kurdistan to be the indispensable bridge for interstate trade among nations in the region. Many of our neighbours, including Iran and Turkey, are taking advantage and trading with the rest of Iraq through Kurdistan.

Q:Where do you stand on the question of independence for the region?

A:Kurdish people have made a choice, by voting for the Iraqi constitution, that they want to be a part of a democratic Iraq. We are serious about our commitment, and we are bound by the Iraqi constitution. But the constitution is key to maintaining Iraq’s territorial integrity and our being part of Iraq is contingent upon a central Iraqi democratic system of government. So Kurdish people have the right to self-determination, like any other nation, but we have chosen to be part of a democratic Iraq whose integrity is very much contingent upon respecting the constitution of the country.

Q:What are your feelings on the recent elections in Iraq [in March]?

A:The recent elections obviously were an important landmark in Iraq’s political development. They have produced a new political map. We hope that there will be a government in Baghdad before long: a competent, inclusive government representing the main communities of Iraq. We believe that the Kurds will be an important pillar for that government when it is formed and we are already party to serious conversations with the various parliamentary blocks on how to form the next government and how to move forward.

Q:Do you prefer one side to another? Allawi or Al Maliki perhaps?

A: We have taken it upon ourselves not to personalise the issue. It is about the government programme and also about the guarantees that will be needed to ensure that the government will be inclusive, will respect powersharing and will also be committed to the Iraqi constitution and to solving the disputed issues between Baghdad and Erbil.

Many of our neighbours, including Iran and Turkey, are taking advantage and trading with the rest of Iraq through Kurdistan

 CURRICULUM VITAE

 BARHAM SALIH

 2009
 Kurdistan region of Iraq
 Prime minister

 2004

 Interim Iraqi government
 Deputy prime minister

 1991
 Kurdistan regional government
 Representative to the US