ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Erbil on late Monday, following his visit to Baghdad and was received by Prime Minister of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Masrour Barzani, and took part in meetings with him and other officials.
Earlier in the day, he met Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed al-Hakim in Baghdad after landing in Iraq in the morning.
Lavrov, accompanied by a delegation of Russian diplomats and trade officials, was scheduled to stay for several days, but due to security concerns as a result of recent mass demonstrations in Baghdad and several other cities, he will now return to Moscow directly after his meetings in Erbil.
In his meeting with Prime Minister Barzani, the minister congratulated the formation of the KRG's ninth cabinet, according to Barzani's office.
Lavrov also praised the historical ties between the Kurdistan Region and his nation, mentioning that past Kurdish leader Mustafa Barzani had spent time in Russia.
During the meeting, both sides emphasized the importance of programs to further develop ties between the two governments. For his part, Barzani welcomed any initiative to promote deeper economic relations with Russia, saying, "We agreed to continue oil and gas investments and explore opportunities in minerals, agriculture and industry."
Lavrov also commended the security and stability of the Kurdistan Region, affirming his support for Russian companies' investment in the region and said he supported the establishment of a new direct flight between Erbil and Moscow.
"I underscored the urgency of developments in Syria, and called on Russia to help promote a long-lasting political solution that protects the rights and dignity of all the Syrian peoples, including the Kurdish people," said Barzani.
They also discussed Islamic State activity in certain areas of Iraq and Syria, with both sides agreeing that the extremist group continues to pose a serious threat. Lavrov made a point to laud the Peshmerga’s key role in the fight against Islamic State militants and offered Russia’s support if required.
Barzani and Lavrov concluded their meeting with a detailed discussion of current events in Russia and the importance of continued dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad.
Editing by John J. Catherine