Merkel welcomes Kurdish President Barzani

March 4, 2009 at 12:41 PM

BERLIN, March 4 (UPI) -- The president of the Kurdistan Regional Government embarked on the second leg of his European tour with a visit Wednesday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

President Massoud Barzani arrived in Berlin on Wednesday to meet with Merkel and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the KRG said in a statement.

Steinmeier opened a German Consulate-General office in the Kurdish capital, Erbil, in February, noting Germany "respects the achievements of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government."

Barzani's visit to Germany follows an earlier meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to discuss bilateral economic relations as part of a broader European effort by the Kurdish government in Iraq.

"The Kurdistan region has much to gain from developing friendships with European nations in a wide variety of fields and economic sectors, and I look forward to a closer partnership with countries such as Italy," Barzani said.

The Kurdish president also received praise from Pope Benedict XVI, who commended the efforts toward religious tolerance in the Kurdish region of Iraq.

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