ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The US Special Presidential Envoy for the Coalition against the Islamic State, Brett McGurk, on Monday emphasized the key Kurdish role in Iraq’s political process and encouraged the leadership to participate actively in governing the country through the new government of Iraq.
McGurk’s comments came during a meeting in Erbil with the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region,Nechirvan Barzani.
During the meeting, which was attended by the US Ambassador to Iraq,Douglas Silliman, and the Consul General in Erbil, Steven Fagin, the delegation discussed the process of electing the speaker of the Iraqi Parliament and his deputies, according to a statement issued by the press office of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG.)
They also discussed the ongoing talks among the Iraqi political parties for the formation of the new Iraqi government, Erbil – Baghdad relations, and the Sep. 30 parliamentary election in the Kurdistan Region.
“The delegation expressed its support for the influential role of the Kurdish parties in Baghdad, their strong participation in the political process, and governance in Iraq,” the statement reads.
The Kurdish parties altogether have secured about 60 seats out of a totalof 329 in Iraq’s Parliament. They continue to negotiate with Iraq’s largest parliamentary blocs over the formation of the new government, but they have yet to decide which bloc they will join, as that decision is based on which bloc is prepared to go furthest in addressing Kurdish political concerns.
Barzani highlighted the continuing efforts of the Kurdish parties inparticipating actively in Iraq’s political process, determining government posts, and forming a new government.
He mentioned that talks continue between the Kurdish parties in general, and the leading two parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in particular, to establish a unified position in their negotiations with Baghdad.
McGurk’s meeting with Barzani follows after Iraqi politicians have begun to take the initial steps toward forming the new government.
On Saturday, parliament chose as its new speaker, Mohammed al-Halbousi, former governor of Anbar Province and a member of the Fatih (Conquest) bloc, which is supported by Iran. Halbousi beat out the former Iraqi Defense Minister, Khalid al-Obaidi, whom the US had backed for the post.
Commentators have begun to suggest that Iran is winning over the US in the battle for influence in Iraq. Ranj Alaaldin, a Brookings Institution scholar, suggested that “Iran’s favored candidates are also set to get the presidency and premiership,” while the Middle East news magazine, Al-Monitor, titled its report on Halbousi, “Iran 1, US 0.”
Editing by Laurie Mylroie