ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry on Tuesday landed in Erbil, and discussed Erbil – Baghdad relations with senior Kurdish leaders, and expressed the US interest to invest in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region and Iraq.
Received by the former President of the Kurdistan Region and current President of the leading Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Masoud Barzani, Perry stated that the US administration views the Kurdish Region as very important, and the US is interested in working with it in the sector of energy and natural resources, according to Barzani’s press office.
Barzani currently holds no governmental post, but continues to remain an important Kurdish political figure in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.
Perry stressed Erbil – Baghdad relations, stating there is a good opportunity to develop the ties and expressed Washington’s support in that regard as well as developing the energy sector in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, the statement reads.
He noted that there is a new beginning for the American companies to invest in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq.
Douglas Silliman, the US Ambassador to Iraq who accompanied Perry, praised the recent visit of Barzani to Baghdad, stressed that the US would be a mediator between Erbil and Baghdad and would also help both sides to cooperate with each other, the statement adds.
Perry also delivered the gratitude of the US Vice-President Mike Pence to Barzani for hosting hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) from different ethnic and religious groups in the Kurdistan Region, namely Christians.
International Religious Freedom is a priority issue for the Trump administration and Pence has taken a leading role in promoting it.
The US official also highly praised the role of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in defeating the Islamic State (IS).
During the meeting, Barzani stressed the century-long violations and oppressions of Baghdad against the Kurdish people and the failure of the federal government of Iraq to treat the Kurdistan Region as a partner.
The constitutional violations of post-2003 Iraqi government that pushed the Kurdistan Region to independence referendum on Sep. 25 last year, was another topic Barzani discussed with Perry, the statement mentioned.
Barzani noted that after the recent Iraqi elections, there has been a new opportunity, and he described the political changes in Baghdad positively.
“The people of the Kurdistan Region have always supported peaceful dialogue and have been against violence, but they had been forced to defend itself whenever that was needed,” Barzani said.
He praised the support of the US to the Peshmerga in the fight against IS and his hopes for strong bilateral relations between Erbil and Washington.
Later, Barzani and Perry held a joint press conference where they explained the results of their meeting.
Before landing in Erbil, Perry met with Iraqi officials in Baghdad, including Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and Oil Minister Thamer al-Ghadhban, where he stressed the importance of enforcing US financial and energy sanctions on Iraq’s neighboring country - Iran.
Perry also met in Erbil with Masrour Barzani, the Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC), who has also been nominated to be the new Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region.
“In the meeting, Chancellor Barzani and Secretary Perry discussed practical measures to promote energy collaboration and increase economic cooperation in a way that benefits the peoples of the Kurdistan Region and Iraq as a whole and based on the Strategic Framework Agreement between the United States and Iraq,” read the statement issued by Chancellor Barzani’s press office.
Among other things, Barzani called for a renewed effort to provide the next Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) cabinet technical and policy support necessary to diversify the economy, achieve needed reforms and promote good governance.
“Both sides also praised the recent agreement between the KRG and Federal Government on resuming oil exports from Kirkuk as part of a continued, sustained effort to foster constructive ties with Iraq’s new government and increase shared revenue,” the statement continued.
“They also reviewed the strong partnership between the U.S. and Kurdistan Region and ways the United States can help Erbil and Baghdad address unresolved political disputes, in accord with Iraq’s Constitution.”
In a separate meeting, Perry met with incumbent Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani, who has been nominated to become the Region’s next president.
Perry expressed US support for stabilization in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, as well as for negotiations between Erbil and Baghdad to resolve disputes peacefully, the Prime Minister’s office stated.
Editing by Laurie Mylroie