US begins construction of largest consulate abroad in Erbil
US Ambassador to Iraq Douglas Silliman and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani have broken ground on the largest American consulate building in the city of Erbil.
Barzani said Friday the project shows that “America wants to stay in Iraq, that America wants to remain in Kurdistan, that America wants to develop its ties,” the Kurdish Rudaw Media Network reported.
Silliman, for his part, emphasized that the construction of the biggest US consulate complex, which is one of the most modern facilities, is a “strong symbol of the continued strong relationship” between Washington and Erbil.
The US initially opened a diplomatic office in Erbil in February 2007 and four years later upgraded it to a consulate general.
The new US consulate, which will be built on a 200,000 square meter piece of land, will cost $600 million. The construction project is expected to take four years.
Back in 2009, the US inaugurated the largest and most expensive embassy in the world in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, suggesting that Washington was set for a long haul in the Arab country.
The 104-acre compound is bigger than the Vatican and about the size of 80 football fields. It cost the US $750 million.
Iraq has been wracked by a vicious cycle of violence since the US invasion of the country in 2003, which has destroyed the nation’s infrastructures.
In recent months, Washington has also stepped up its alliance with Kurdish forces active in Syria despite opposition by Turkey that is worried about the formation of an autonomous Kurdish state on its borders.
About 2,000 US troops are deployed to northeast Syria in territories under the control of Kurdish militants amid fears of the war-torn state’s partition.
Last December, US President Donald Trump approved providing weapons worth $393 million to what Washington calls partners in Syria, including the so-called Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
The US measures infuriated Ankara and prompted the country to launch a military campaign against Kurdish forces in Syria.