China’s Consul General in Erbil Ni Ruchi has confirmed China’s desire to strengthen cooperation with Iraq’s semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan, the Chinese consulate general said Wednesday.

Ni held a meeting on Tuesday in Erbil with President of the Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani, during which the Chinese diplomat hailed the longstanding friendship between the Chinese and the Kurds, as well as the connection between the two cultures, the consulate said in a statement.

“China and the Kurdish region have made great progress in exchange and cooperation in the fields of economy, trade, culture and education,” it said.

The meeting was held as this year marks the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China and the fifth anniversary of the establishment of the Chinese consulate in the Iraqi Kurdistan region.

Ni said that China is willing to take this opportunity to deepen its cooperation with the Kurdistan region in the fields of energy and infrastructure, within the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.

For his part, Barzani reaffirmed Kurdistan’s willingness to enhance cooperation with China in the fields of economy, trade, industry, culture and education, said a statement by the Kurdish presidency’s office.

The two sides discussed the political situation in the region and the efforts of rebuilding the areas devastated in the fight against the Islamic State, as well as the cooperation between the private sectors of both sides, it added.