ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – An official in the US Embassy in Baghdad stated that the US has a long-standing commitment to developing cultural and educational programs in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.
In an interview with the Kurdistan 24 on Wednesday, John Kincannon, Public Affairs Officer at the US Embassy in Baghdad talked about the services US diplomatic offices in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region provide for citizens.
Kincannon stated that his country has a long-standing commitment toward developing educational and cultural programs between the US and Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, saying "It is one of our largest programs anywhere in the world."
Kincannon revealed that approximately 500 Iraqis participated in different exchange programs in the US, an estimated hundred of them were from the Kurdistan Region.
He added that the Iraqi students who use their own resources to study in the US are around 2000, several hundreds of whom are from the Kurdistan Region, which is 10 percent increase compared to last year.
"One of the services that our Consulate in Erbil provides is educational advising in a variety of ways, group advising, online and a lot of information available on the Consulate website for the students willing to study in the US," Kincannon added.
He explained that the US is interested in building people-to-people relationships, saying diplomacy is not only about governments and diplomats talking to one another but through building bridges to universities, NGOs, religious groups, journalists, and civil society organizations.
He believes cultural relations help de-escalate tensions during hard times.
Asked about the current administration’s visa ban on some Muslim countries and its impact on Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, Kincannon said they have not seen a large impact in Iraq.
"Visas here have always experienced considerable scrutiny, and we are not seeing big changes in terms of the number of people who successfully apply,” he concluded.
Editing by Sam A.
(Interview was conducted by Umed Ali)