Make use of Middle Eastern promise, companies urged
Northern Ireland companies are being encouraged to take advantage of a bonanza of economic opportunities in the Middle East.
Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster was speaking as she welcomed His Excellency Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq to Northern Ireland, on a two-day trade and investment visit organised by Invest NI.
Minister Foster revealed that 2,000 schools and 150 hospitals are planned for the oil-rich region over the next 15 years.
Last year a new Invest NI office was opened in Erbil, Kurdistan, and both Minister Foster and President Barzani have already signed a a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen trade links between Northern Ireland and Kurdistan, with particular attention being paid to higher education, police and security training, tourism and agriculture.
A number of Northern Ireland companies have already secured business in the wider Middle East region, particularly in the oil and gas, construction, professional services, education and agriculture sectors.
The delegation took a tour of the Titanic museum and also visited the Agri-food and Biosciences Institute in Belfast.
Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the Kurdistan Regional Government high representative to the United Kingdom, was a member of the delegation.
She said that the two regions have a lot to learn from one another.
"Both areas have been afflicted by trauma and troubles and I feel that we have a lot to learn from Northern Ireland, which is now emerging from a troubled period," she said.
"While we are very different in terms of climate, location and religion, we have a lot in common.
"We feel in Kurdistan, because of our difficulties, we are behind other regions and we can work with Northern Ireland to see how we can catch up in terms of technology and higher education. We are interested in our visit to the Titanic building, to see how one super-museum can help attract over 700,000 people to one small region."
President Barzani receives former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Statement of the Spokesperson of the Kurdistan Democratic Party: