December 9, 2016

Masrour Barzani thanks United States and calls for continued cooperation

Washington, DC, USA (us.gov.krd) – A senior delegation from the Kurdistan Region Government (KRG) met US Vice President Joseph Biden and other high level American officials in a week-long visit to Washington DC in which they thanked the current Administration and called for continued cooperation from the incoming government.

The delegation, led by Masrour Barzani, the Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council, met Vice President Biden at meeting hosted by the National Security Council (NSC) at the White House.  Mr Barzani, Chief of Staff to the President of the Kurdistan Region Dr. Fuad Hussein, and KRG Representative to the United States Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman met with Vice President Biden and Deputy National Security Advisor Avril Haines, as well as key NSC staff.

They discussed the role of the Peshmerga in the fight against ISIS and Vice President Biden expressed his appreciation for their bravery and sacrifice, as well as the impact of the humanitarian crisis on Kurdistan.

Throughout the week the delegation met with officials at the State Department, including Deputy Secretary Tony Blinken, and the Department of Defense’s Assistant Secretary Elissa Slotkin. They also held several meetings on Capitol Hill where Chancellor Barzani gave a closed-door briefing to the House Intelligence Committee and discussed Kurdistan Region’s future with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee led by Chairman Bob Corker.

The delegation also met with people connected to the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump to provide updates from the region and discuss a range of challenges facing the Kurdistan Region. Among them was Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, as well as Middle East expert Dr. Walid Phares.

In these meetings Chancellor Barzani thanked the United States for providing critical air support and training for Peshmerga forces in the fight against ISIS. He outlined the current status of the operation to liberate Mosul and the need to reach agreement on political settlements after ISIS is defeated. The delegation also discussed the strategic relations between the United States and Kurdistan. Mr. Barzani urged the United States to maintain a presence in the region to counter future terrorist insurgencies and provide stabilizing diplomatic support.

Chancellor Barzani, Dr. Hussein, and Representative Abdul Rahman met with Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL Ambassador Brett McGurk at the State Department. In a wide-ranging conversation they discussed the current status of the campaign to liberate Mosul and the importance of creating realistic, workable political settlements to govern Nineveh and other regions that have been or are in the process of being liberated.

Dr Hussein and Representative Abdul Rahman held a round a meetings at the State Department with Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein; Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees, and Migration Mark C. Storella; and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Dafna Hochman Rand.

Chief of Staff Fuad Hussein joined a panel in Congress with Dr. Kenneth Pollack, Senior Fellow at Brookings Institution, and Dr. Henri Barkey, Director of Middle East Programs at Wilson Center for a discussion on the future of Kurdistan. The discussion was moderated by Chris Blanchard of the Congressional Research Service and was organized by the Kurdish American Congressional Caucus.

Dr. Hussein said, ‘We will start dialogue with Baghdad about reshaping the future relationship between Kurdistan and Iraq.’

Dr Pollack said that a Kurdistan outside of Iraq was in the ‘strategic interest’ of the United States and the world.

The Kurdistani delegation also  met with several Senators and Representatives, including Rep. Jared Polis, who with Rep. Marsha Blackburn co-chairs the Kurdish caucus,  Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Vice Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker, Ranking Member Sen. Ben Cardin, Sen. Marco Rubio; House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce; Senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sen. Mike Inhofe; House State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Kay Granger and Ranking Member Rep. Nita Lowey; Rep. Adam Kinzinger of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of the House Foreign Affairs Committee;.

In a detailed discussion with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Chancellor Barzani thanked the United States for supporting the Peshmerga and for its leadership of the counter-ISIS coalition. He said that there are many mutual interests between Kurdistan and America and the need for cooperation will continue. He discussed the future strategic relationship between Erbil and Baghdad and that the people of Kurdistan wanted international guarantees and protection. Senator Corker, Chair of the committee, and other Senators praised the bravery of the Peshmerga and said there is much support and concern for the Kurds.

Chancellor Barzani was hosted by Dr. Henri Barkey at The Wilson Center for a discussion on of the future of governance and security in Iraq after the defeat of ISIS. Mr Barzani said, ‘We need the support of the United States to reach a safe and secure future. We have the right to self-determination, but we are also realistic.’ He added that, ‘The rise of terrorism is a byproduct of a much bigger problem rooted in a political failure.’ The event was attended by approximately 200 experts, journalists, US Government officials, and Kurdish community members.

The delegation was hosted for dinner at the home of the new Iraqi Ambassador to the United States Fareed Yasseen.
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