U.S. thanks KRG for ‘Generous Support’ of Refugees, IDPs

“Both sides expressed their appreciation for the immense value of our partnership,” the Kurdish Representative to Washington concluded.
U.S. State Department building (Photo: U.S. State Department)
U.S. State Department building (Photo: U.S. State Department)

WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – Reber Ahmed, Interior Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), finished the first week of his visit to Washington with two important meetings at the State Department.

On Thursday, he met with Julieta Valls Noyes, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, who had warm words of appreciation for the KRG’s role in hosting refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs.)

The second meeting, on Friday, was with Barbara Leaf, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs. Leaf recently visited Baghdad and Erbil, where she urged the two major Kurdish parties to resolve their differences and hold the long-delayed Kurdish elections in a timely fashion.

Ahmed’s meetings with those two officials, at week’s end, followed meetings that he held earlier in the week with senior officials at the State Department, including Chris Landberg, Acting Counter Terrorism Coordinator and Acting U.S. Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, as well as Ethan Goldrich, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Levant and Syria Engagement.

Read More: KRG Interior Minister Meets with U.S. Counterterrorism Officials

Minister Ahmed also saw the State Department Undersecretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, Uzra Zeya, who explained in a tweet that they had discussed “the protection of human rights” and the “implementation of the Sinjar Agreement.” 

Like Noyes, Zeya also expressed her appreciation of the KRG’s welcome to those who have fled the region’s multiple conflicts, praising the “KRG’s generous support of displaced persons & refugees and efforts to combat gender-based violence.”

Read More: KRG Interior Minister meets with Senior U.S. Officials in Washington

Julieta Noyes: Asst Sec State for Population, Refugees and Migration

“I was honored to meet with Kurdistan Regional Government Minister of Interior @RayberAhmed today to discuss protection needs and durable solutions for refugees and IDPs in #Iraq,” Noyes tweeted after their meeting on Thursday, adding, “@StatePRM thanks the KRG for its generous support of displaced persons.” 

A career diplomat, Noyes previously served as U.S. ambassador to Croatia and, before that, as Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs. She held that post at a crucial time: from 2013 to 2015—when ISIS suddenly burst from out of Syria’s civil war, emerging as a major threat to Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region. 

The U.S. military campaign against ISIS soon began in August 2014, reversing the decision that President Barack Obama had earlier made to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq.

The next month, at a NATO summit, Washington began to build the Global Coalition against ISIS, enlisting the first members into that alliance. The UK was among them, and the following month, in October, Noyes visited London. 

In the British capital, Noyes affirmed, “Cutting off [ISIS’s] funding” is a “paramount”concern,” as The Daily Telegraph reported. She explained that bombing a Syrian pipeline used by ISIS was being considered. It was a key revenue source for the terrorist group, she said, particularly as the regime in Damascus was buying ISIS’s oil—in fact, it was “an important buyer” the Telegraph reported, citing Western officials. 

The role that Noyes played then in helping to stand up and mobilize the anti-ISIS Coalition means that she is very familiar with a key issue in U.S.-Kurdish relations: their shared fight against ISIS.

The Kurdistan Region hosts nearly one million refugees and IDPs, and the Kurdish Interior Minister expressed to Noyes his appreciation of the U.S. role in helping the KRG deal with that massive humanitarian challenge.

“An extensive and open discussion” on “the refugee and displaced communities in Kurdistan, their needs and potential for a return to their homelands,” the KRG envoy to Washington, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, tweeted after Ahmed’s meeting with Noyes. 

“Both sides appreciated the other’s role—the US as the biggest donor of aid to Iraq and @Kurdistan for hosting 1 million refugees and IDPs,” she explained. 

Barbara Leaf: Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs

Reber Ahmed returned to the State Department the next day to see Barbara Leaf, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs.

Leaf visited Erbil in early May, where she held extensive meetings with the Kurdish leadership. Among the issues she discussed was the need for the Kurdish parties to reconcile their differences and hold the elections that have been postponed since last year.

Her words, which followed similar, earlier advice from other U.S. officials, appeared to have immediate effect. For the previous six months, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) had been boycotting cabinet meetings. Yet within days of Leaf’s visit, steps toward a reconciliation had begun. 

Prime Minister Masrour Barzani invited Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani to lunch, and by mid-May, the PUK had returned to the cabinet meetings.

Read More: US welcomes PUK ministerial return to KRG cabinet meeting

The KRG envoy in Washington, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, described Friday’s meeting between Leaf and Ahmed as “a productive, friendly, and candid discussion.”

“They covered crucial topics,” she tweeted, before citing a lengthy list of the issues they had discussed, including “Erbil-Baghdad relations, the Iraqi budget law, oil exports through Turkey, support for displaced people, regional security dynamics, and the democratic experience of Kurdistan Region.” 

And she concluded, “Both sides expressed their appreciation for the immense value of our partnership.”