ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Security developments in Iraq, including stabilization efforts following the military defeat of the so-called Islamic State, led discussions on Thursday between a United States delegation and senior Kurdistan Region officials in Erbil.
Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations, Denise Natali, and an accompanying delegation met separately with Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) President Masoud Barzani and Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC), Masrour Barzani.
In her meeting with the KDP president, Natali conveyed “the greetings of US Vice President Mike Pence to President Barzani,” a statement released by Masoud Barzani’s office stated.
As a congressman, Pence the Kurdistan Region and met with senior Kurdish officials, including Barzani.
During Thursday’s meeting, “President Barzani and Dr. Natali spoke of the latest political developments in Iraq and in the Kurdistan Region,” the statement from Barzani’s office explained.
Both sides also addressed the issues of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and “the ongoing threat of terrorism from the Islamic State,” and they “explored avenues forresolving such issues.”
Additionally, they discussed “the improved relations between Baghdad and Erbil and how that is seen as a promising step toward further stability and prosperity for the Kurdistan Region and the rest of Iraq,” the statement concluded.
Chancellor Masrour Barzani also received Natali and her delegation, which included Andrew Peek, the State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran and Iraq, as well as Consul General to Erbil, Steve Fagin.
“During their meeting, they discussed in detail security developments in Iraq, including the situation in the Nineveh Plains, Kirkuk and Sinjar,” a statement published on the KRSC website read.
“Both sides stressed the need to normalize the areas, continue stabilization efforts and promote the safe and dignified return of displaced families.”
On ties between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Federal Government of Iraq, Masrour Barzani highlighted the need for “reconciliation, as well as coordination” between Erbil and Baghdad “to allow local communities to manage their security affairs.”
Productive meeting today with @CSOAsstSec Denise Natali — I emphasized the need to normalize areas cleared from ISIS, strengthen Stabilization efforts, and delegate security to local communities to allow the displaced to return home. Readout: https://t.co/rLeptWiGvk pic.twitter.com/dBusH65gjA— Masrour Barzani (@masrour_barzani) March 7, 2019
Regarding the Islamic State, both Natali and Chancellor Barzani “underscored the continued, serious threat ISIS ideology poses in Iraq,” the KRSC statement said.
Despite its military defeat in Iraq, the terrorist group continues to pose a security threat with insurgency-style attacks in formerly liberated areas, like the disputed province of Kirkuk, and even in areas it never controlled, such as the Iraqi capital of Baghdad.
In that regard, Chancellor Barzani and Dr. Natali “underscored their shared support for joint security mechanisms between the Peshmerga Forces and Iraqi Security Forces.”
Natali’s visit to the capital of the Kurdistan Region follows her meeting with Iraqi President Barham Salih on Wednesday.
During her eight-day trip to Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, she has met with various Iraqi and Kurdish government officials and was also a speaker on a panel at the Sixth Annual Sulaimani Forum at the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani.
Editing by Laurie Mylroie