U.A.E. to Increase Investment in Iraqi Kurdistan, Official Says

The United Arab Emirates will double its current investment in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region to $6 billion by 2013, said Abdullah bin Ahmed al-Saleh, director general in the emirates’ Ministry of Foreign Trade.

Kurdistan is a important partner for the U.A.E., which is keen to “develop and upgrade” ties between them, al-Saleh told delegates today at the Kurdish Regional Government’s two-day trade and investment conference in London. Iraq ranks 11th among his country’s trading partners, al-Saleh said.

A delegation of Kurdish cabinet ministers and business owners accompanied the northern Iraqi region’s prime minister, Barham Salih, to the conference with a message that Kurdistan presents an ideal investment opportunity.

More than 1,200 foreign companies work in Iraqi Kurdistan’s non-oil sectors, including banking, housing and agriculture, with projects totaling $3 billion over the past 3 1/2 years, the regional government said.

HSBC Holdings Plc’s Iraqi unit plans to open a branch in the Kurdish city of Sulaymaniyah and in Zarko, near the region’s border with Turkey, Michael Hodges, the London-based bank’s business development director for the Middle East and North Africa, told the conference.

“It is very likely that the first HSBC-branded bank will open in Kurdistan in a year or so,” Hodges said.

The Kurdish-controlled northern provinces of Sulaymaniyah, Erbil and Dohuk have been ruled by elected officials since 1992. Ethnic Kurds represent 15 to 20 percent of Iraq’s population of 30 million.

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