High-level US delegation meets Kurdistan PM in Erbil

The meeting came as part of “ongoing efforts” to strengthen ties between the Kurdistan Region and the US, a statement from Prime Minister Masrour Barzani's office said.
author_image Hiwa Shilani
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Joey Hood (L) in a meeting with Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani in Erbil on May 15, 2021. (Photo: KRG)
Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Joey Hood (L) in a meeting with Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani in Erbil on May 15, 2021. (Photo: KRG)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region, Masrour Barzani, received on Sunday a high-level US delegation including Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Joey Hood, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Levant Affairs Aimee Cutrona, and Director of Iraq and Syria Affairs at the US National Security Council Zehra Bell.

The meeting came as part of “ongoing efforts” to strengthen ties between the Kurdistan Region and the US, a statement from the prime minister’s office said.

Related Article: Biden administration: We have a ‘strategic partnership’ with the Kurdistan Region

Prime Minister Barzani expressed his “deepest appreciation” for the work of diplomats in the region, the statement added. He also affirmed the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) commitment to “engaging with allies and neighbors on key issues,” especially relating to security and stability in the region.

The US delegation recognized the role of the Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga forces in ensuring “the lasting defeat of ISIS.” The US team and the Kurdish prime minister agreed on “the need to establish Joint Cooperation Centers between the Peshmerga and Iraqi Security Forces,” the statement noted.

The KRG has long called for coordinated action with the Iraqi government in the fight against ISIS in territories disputed by the two administrations. Such calls have support from the US and the UK.

Following years of efforts, a high-ranking Kurdish official told Kurdistan 24 on Saturday that Iraq's military forces and their counterparts in the autonomous Kurdistan Region will soon form joint brigades to be deployed within territories disputed by both federal and regional governments to counter the continuing threat of ISIS militants there. 

Read More: Iraqi Army, Kurdish Peshmerga to form joint brigades in disputed territories: Official

Regarding Syria, Prime Minister Barzani explained that “a peaceful and equitable resolution” to the situation there will add to regional stability and allow the Kurdistan Region “to focus its efforts on immediate threats, notably ISIS,” the statement added.

Rule of Law

Barzani “reiterated that domestic issues remain a priority for the Kurdistan Regional Government, notably the economy and its reform agenda.”

Related Article: KRG sees ‘pivotal year’ for domestic reform, says Prime Minister Masrour Barzani

The prime minister and the US delegation expressed their “unequivocal support for freedom of press and speech in the Kurdistan Region, and agreed the strengthening of the rule of law will promote accountability and trust between institutions in the Kurdistan Region, including civil society organizations, and the people.”

The statement clarified the KRG position regarding a recent case that involved a group of five men convicted on charges of espionage on behalf of foreign interests, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in what Erbil says was a bid to destabilize the security of the autonomous region under the name of “journalism and civil activism.”

Read More: Kurdistan Region releases confessions of a ‘spy network’ in Duhok province

“Prime Minister Barzani affirmed the politically-motivated actions of the convicted men and the misuse of their platforms will be handled within the framework of the law,” the press release added. Barzani “appreciated the concerns of the Kurdistan Region’s diplomatic corps, and assured this case will be treated with utmost consideration.”