ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reminded Baghdad the US has friends both in Erbil and the Iraqi capital, urging both sides to engage in dialogue to resolve their issues.
“We are concerned and a bit saddened by the recent differences that have emerged between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi central government. We have friends both in Baghdad, and we have friends in Erbil, and we encourage both parties to enter into discussion and dialogue,” Tillerson said during a surprise visit with the Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, in Baghdad on Monday.
He mentioned that should both Erbil and Baghdad commit to a unified country and the Constitution of Iraq, “all differences can be addressed, and the rights of all can be respected, and Iraq will have a very secure and prosperous future.”
The visit came a day after the two officials attended a trilateral meeting in Riyadh on Sunday. Tillerson had then publicly demanded Iranian militias “leave Iraq,” at a time when the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi are currently operating in disputed territories alongside Iraqi forces.
Clashes between Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga have regularly occurred on established front lines across northern Iraq since the October 16 incursion on Kirkuk.
During his meeting with the US Secretary of State in Baghdad, Abadi highlighted the role of the Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militia, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), lauding their contribution to the fight against the Islamic State (IS).
“We should support the fighters of the PMF because they will be the hope of the country and the region,” Abadi said, according to the Prime Minister’s press office. “They are part of the Iraq’s state institutions.”
The Kurdish Peshmerga and Security Forces have repeatedly condemned the PMF, along with the Iraqi Forces' use of US M1 Abrams tanks and other advanced military equipment in attacks on the people of the Kurdistan Region, notably in Kirkuk and in the town of Pirde, also known as Altun Kupri, south of Erbil.
Editing by G.H. Renaud