Senior KRG Official to Participate in Iraqi PM’s talks in Washington

U.S. preparation for the meeting began before Hamas’s Oct. 7 assault on Israel, but it was given added impetus by the turmoil that now engulfs the region.
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller. (Photo: AP/Nathan Howard)
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller. (Photo: AP/Nathan Howard)

WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – Next week, when Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani visits Washington, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) will be represented by a senior official.

That will be the head of the KRG’s Department of Foreign Relations, Safeen Dizayee. 

In September, Dizayee met in New York with Brett McGurk, White House Coordinator on the Middle East and Africa, on the sidelines of the opening of the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA.)

Read More: KRG Foreign Relations head, US security coordinator McGurk address Erbil-Baghdad ties

The announcement of KRG participation in next week’s talks came on Monday, as State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller explained to journalists that the discussions would be held in the context of the U.S.-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee (HCC), which last met in Washington in February 2023.

As Miller said, next week’s HCC meeting “will highlight our shared bilateral priorities and the broad relationship between our two countries, including energy independence, financial reform, services for the Iraqi people, strengthening democracy and the rule of law, and enhancing educational and cultural relations.”

“Representatives from Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government will participate in these discussions,” he pointedly added.

“The United States supports a strong, resilient Iraqi Kurdistan Region within a sovereign, stable, and secure federal Iraq,” he continued. “We encourage the Government of Iraq and the KRG to redouble efforts to resolve longstanding issues, bringing economic benefits to all Iraqis.”

The HCC is based on the Nov. 2008 Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA}, which was concluded between Baghdad and Washington in the last months of the George W. Bush administration. The SFA provides for long-term cooperation between the U.S. and Iraq over a wide range of fields, including defense and security.

The last such HCC meeting was held in Feb. 2023. However, it took place at a lower level, with the Iraqi delegation led by Fuad Hussein, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister. 

Preparation for the Upcoming HCC

U.S. preparation for the upcoming HCC began last September, before the Middle East erupted with Hamas’s Oct. 7 assault on Israel. However, it has been given added impetus by the turmoil that now engulfs the region. 

In addition to meeting Safeen Dizayee on the sidelines of the UNGA opening, Brett McGurk also met with the Iraqi Prime Minister and extended an invitation to visit Washington. However, no date was set for the visit until last month, when it was announced that Sudani would meet Biden on April 15.

Read More: Iraqi Prime Minister to Make First Visit to Washington

That announcement was preceded by the visit of KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani to Washington in late February. It was Barzani’s first visit to the U.S. capital in his current capacity.

Read More: U.S, KRG Hail ‘Long Partnership,’ as Blinken, Barzani Meet

Barzani’s visit was followed a month later by the visit to Washington of Fuad Hussein.

Read More: Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister meets U.S. officials ahead of Prime Minister’s Visit to Washington

Most recently, on Saturday and Sunday, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq met with a number of political figures in Baghdad, including the President of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani.

Barzani had traveled to the Iraqi capital to meet with a number of Iraqi officials. He then met with Romanowski, and, presumably, briefed her on those meetings.

Read More: Kurdistan Region President Meets U.S. Ambassador after Meetings with Iraqi Officials and before PM Sudani’s visit to Washington

The U.S. is keen to see improved ties between Erbil and Baghdad and a resolution of their differences.

For the KRG, one of the main issues involves the resumption of oil exports through the pipeline to Ceyhan, Turkey. Those exports have been suspended for over a year, causing over $7 billion in lost revenues.

Another issue is Baghdad’s payment of the salaries of civil servants. That was recently resolved, at least for now, and the Kurdish president hailed it as “an excellent first step.”

Read More: PM Barzani, Iraqi Premier agreement on civil servant salaries is ‘excellent first step,’ says Kurdistan Region President