PM Barzani visit to Washington DC important, at a critical time, says KRG Rep. to the US

“The Prime Minister had a full round of meetings with government officials, members of congress, the think tank community, and business leaders," said Treefa Aziz.
Ms. Treefa Aziz, KRG Representative to the US in an interview with Kurdistan 24. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)
Ms. Treefa Aziz, KRG Representative to the US in an interview with Kurdistan 24. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – in an interview with Kurdistan 24, Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Representative to the United States Treefa Aziz described the recent visit by the Kurdistan Region’s Prime Minister Masrour Barzani to the US as important and at a very critical time.

“The Prime Minister had a full round of meetings with government officials, members of congress, the think tank community, and business leaders. So it was a very productive and very strong visit to Washington D.C.,” said Treefa Aziz.

Read More: PM Barzani Meets with Many Congressmen

Ms. Aziz highlighted that, in his first visit in the capacity as the Prime Minister since 2019, PM Barzani’s visit has been labeled as “significant” and “he was very warmly received throughout Washington D.C. as he embarked on critical meetings with government officials.”

The meetings, as Ms. Aziz describes, have been very positive and productive. Throughout the meetings, the US has reassured the Kurdistan Region of its strong commitments as well as partnership with the Kurdistan Region.  

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Ms. Treefa Aziz outlined the purpose of PM Barzani’s visit to the US and said, “PM Barzani had four specific messages and an overall concern that he shared” with the US.

First, given the recent tensions and attacks in the region, PM Barzani asked for greater security protection and support. “As you know we have a recent legislation that the US has passed regarding providing the Kurdistan Region with air-defense equipment. So PM Barzani asked that the provision of these equipment be expedited,” she explained.

She reiterated that provision of such air-defense systems is not only important to “protect Kurdistan Region’s citizens but also the 140 diplomatic missions and agencies and US troops and assets stationed in KRG.”  

The second message to the US was concerning the repeated delays in the transferring of KRG’s share of the budget. “We asked for regular and timely transfer of the budget which the KRG is entitled to from Baghdad. These delays are causing greater instability in the region and the unnecessary delay was something we needed US help with,” she clarified.

Thirdly, the issue of oil export was part of the discussions. “We asked for regular resumption of oil exports from the KRG,” Ms. Aziz stated.

The Kurdistan Region has been unable to export its oil through the Iraq-Turkey pipeline since March 2023. As a result billions of dollars are being lost. Ms.. Aziz calls this economic pressure “highly unnecessary”, and she said that PM Barzani has discussed further support and greater assistance from the US to use its leverage and “its influence in Baghdad to resume oil exports from the Kurdistan region,” she said.

Fourth point of discussions was about the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution. “We asked for the implementation of the disputed territories Article 140. These areas are still not being addressed. The vulnerable populations of these areas' needs are not being addressed. Therefore, we asked for help in implementing article 140,” she clarified.

However, along with the above-mentioned discussions, a general concern was also conveyed to the US.

Ms. Aziz highlighted that there seems to be a “backsliding on the concepts of democracy, federalism, and the rights of the diverse communities and minorities.”

She warned that backsliding on these issues would cause instability not only in Iraq but throughout the region.

The US could help the Kurdistan Region, and also Iraq, to “bring all parties back to the constitution”, she maintained, and could assure the Kurdistan Region of its constitutional rights in Iraq.

The general response to PM Barzani’s visit has been really promising and positive. The commitment and support of the Kurdistan Region was reiterated through all the meetings.

“They [the US] want to see a strong KRG, an economically viable KRG. They reassured us that our security is their priority as well,” she noted.

The US Chamber of Commerce organized a special reception to honor Prime Minister Masrour Barzani’s visit to the United States. The event attracted numerous American officials, business leaders, prominent investors, and members of the Kurdish diaspora in the US.

At this event, “the PM reiterated the call for US companies to have greater investment in KRG,” Ms. Aziz remarked.

As part of her mission, Ms. Aziz explained that she intends to work to encourage American companies and investors to bring in their investments to the Kurdistan Region.

“The openness of our market and the few regulations to enable people to come and work in KRG,” she said, could motivate investors and businesspersons to invest in the Kurdistan Region.

“This will be a priority of mine to encourage US companies and investors to come and participate in this ambitious and economic reform program that the PM has prioritized for our region and in diversifying our economy,” she emphasized.

The diversification policy is at the heart of Prime Minister Barzani’s plans for the Kurdistan Region. Steps have already been taken to this end, especially in agriculture, tourism sector, and health industry.

Ms. Treefa Aziz returned to the question of US and Peshmerga cooperative relations and collaborations and said that, “Clearly that is a priority of the US government.”

On September 21, 2022, US Assistant Secretary of Defense Celeste Wallander and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Minister of Peshmerga Affairs Shoresh Ismail Abdulla signed a renewed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to continue to support Peshmerga forces.

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This Memorandum of Understanding clearly “is helping and assisting our Peshmerga in its reform and in its unification, and also provides support and technical assistance. That will continue until 2026 and hopefully beyond,” she observed.

The US prioritizes Peshmerga to become a “modern and effective military force,” she said. These commitments have been quite reassuring, however Ms. Aziz also commented that throughout the meetings PM Barzani raised concerns about the dangers of the recent attacks on the Kurdistan Region’s capital Erbil.

“Our Peshmerga force needs to be able to effectively defend itself against such attacks. So the defensive equipment that the US government has provided for us is critically important and their provision should be expedited,” she reiterated.

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Masrour Barzani, Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region, arrived in Washington over the weekend, and one of his first scheduled meetings is with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday morning Feb. 26.

The visit was followed by a second meeting at the State Department with Uzra Zeya, Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights.

You can watch the interview in full here: