ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) chief Masrour Barzani on Sunday met US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran and Iraq, Andrew Peek, and welcomed his “commitment to strengthening” the Erbil – Washington partnership, a statement by Barzani’s office read.
Earlier in the day, the US delegation visited Sulaimani, where they met separately with senior members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), including its acting leader, Kosrat Rasul Ali.
According to reports by PUK-affiliated media, the formation of the new Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the promotion of Erbil – Baghdad ties, and the fight against Islamic State remnants were among the main topics in Peek’s three meetings with leading PUK members. Similar topics were explored in his meeting with Barzani.
Peek was accompanied by US Ambassador to Iraq, Douglas Silliman, and Consul General to Erbil, Steve Fagin, during his “substantive” meeting with Barzani, held in the Kurdistan Region capital.
The two men discussed developments in the region, putting a “particular emphasis” on the status of areas disputed between the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, according to the KRSC.
The issue also arose in Peek’s meeting with Kosrat Ali, highlighting the difficult security situation in Kirkuk Province. Violence has increased sharply since Iraq’s Oct. 16, 2017, assault on the area in a military operation engineered by Qasim Soleimani, head of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Baghdad’s measures against the Kurdistan Region—which also included an international flight ban—followed the region’s independence referendum, which saw an overwhelming majority vote in favor of independence.
In Sulaimani, the US delegation agreed with Ali “on the need to normalize the security situation” of Kirkuk, “return the [city’s] security apparatus to the hands of security forces,” and secure the “joint protection” of surrounding areas, PUK media reported.
According to a senior Peshmerga official, Erbil and Baghdad are set to re-establish the previously dismantled high-level joint military committee to coordinate on security matters in disputed areas. The two governments first established the committee in 2009, but dissolved it following Iraq’s assault on Kirkuk.
Particularly since the formation of the new Iraqi government, headed by Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, Erbil and Baghdad have been working to mend ties.
To further cement those relations, Barzani “called on Iraq’s partners, and the United States in particular, to play a stronger role in mediating political disputes between Erbil and Baghdad,” the KRSC statement explained.
Editing by Laurie Mylroie