Barzani in Washington: White House Meeting Successful

Basnews | Hawar Abdulrazaq – 06.05.2015 – WASHINGTON – The President of Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani said on Tuesday that he had a “successful” meeting with the U.S. president and vice president; amid debates his region is seeking independence“I would like to communicate this message to the people of Kurdistan that our meeting at the White House was very successful,” Masoud Barzani said at a reception given in his honor on at the Chamber of Commerce in Washington late Tuesday.

Success of Peshmerga forces of the Kurdish region against the Islamic State Militants since last June, when the terror group captured large swaths of territory in Iraq, has fueled a desire for independence by the autonomous region. But the United States has resisted the idea of independence and declined to provide military assistance directly to the Kurds while many European powers have supplied aid. Barzani is expected to ask for United States support for his government during his visit but Washington is still backing a “unified” Iraq, the White House said Tuesday.“It continues to be the view of the United States that a unified Iraq that’s governed in an inclusive way is clearly in the best interest of Iraq’s diverse population,” said spokesman Josh Earnest.

The White House released a readout of the leaders’ meeting saying the fight against IS militants was the main topic of discussion.

Barzani’s week-long visit to Washington has been discussed in the media as a diplomatic trip to convince the Obama Administration to directly provide arms to the Peshmerga forces rather than going through the Iraqi central government. “It’s true that Kurdistan faced a lot of challenges, especially in confronting the most brutal terrorist organization of IS militants,” Barzani said. He said with support of the U.S.-led coalition, Peshmerga forces have managed to change the balance of the conflict on the ground. “The initiative is now in the hands of Peshmerga, We have been able to clear a land of more than 20,000 square kilometers from IS insurgents,” he said. “Peshmerga were able to destroy the myth of IS being an invincible force.”

The Kurdish president also said the Kurdistan region has hosted more than 1.5 million displaced persons from Iraq and refugees from Syria, despite economic challenges.

“I would like to assure you that Kurdistan will remain to be the safe haven for all those who flee violence,” he said. “It will remain the beacon of all and also the land of tolerance regardless of national, ethnic, religious and ethnic background.”

He also urged U.S. companies to do business in the region while thanking those already doing business there.

Meanwhile the White House said Tuesday that it still backs a “unified” Iraq even with the president of the Kurdish Region was set to ask for U.S. support for his government during his current visit to Washington. “It continues to be the view of the United States that a unified Iraq that’s governed in an inclusive way is clearly in the best interest of Iraq’s diverse population,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

Last week BasNews revealed that self-determination of Iraqi Kurds will be one of the main topics to be discussed during Massoud Barzani’s visit.The White House released a readout saying President Barack Obama on Tuesday met Barzani at the White House, along with Vice President Joe Biden. Though Kurdish leaders were expected to raise the possibility of a “self-determined” Kurdish government during the meeting, the White House readout said fighting against IS militants was the main topic of discussion. The leaders “discussed a range of issues, including the campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL and the status of ongoing political initiatives to address the needs of the Iraqi people and foster cooperation across all communities,” the readout said.

Iraqi troops and Kurdish Peshmerga forces are fighting against IS militants, supported by a U.S.-led coalition that has been conducting airstrikes against the extremist group.

Obama reaffirmed Washington’s support for the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and the Kurdish people and also “reaffirmed the United States’ enduring commitment under the Strategic Framework Agreement to a united, federal, and democratic Iraq, as defined in the Iraqi constitution,” according to the readout. President Obama and Vice President Biden each commended the bravery of the Kurdish Peshmerga and expressed condolences to the victims of IS war throughout Iraq. Then President Barzani acknowledged President Obama and Vice President Biden for the significant military support that the United States has provided to Kurdish Peshmerga in coordination with the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Security Forces, including the military action taken to protect Erbil and other parts of Iraqi Kurdistan following the fall of Mosul. Both sides agreed on the importance of strengthening relations between Baghdad and Erbil and underscored their continued shared commitment to provide support to the millions of civilians displaced by the violence in the region.