Kurdistan Region on the agenda of the meeting

Sudani and U.S. Secretary of State Blinken meet in Washington

NEWSROOM — Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held talks on Monday covering various shared interests, including investment opportunities for U.S. companies in the energy sectors and the importance of regional stability. While Al-Sudani’s office statement only highlighted economic cooperation and the situation in Gaza, 964media has learned that discussions on Baghdad-Erbil relations were a notable aspect of the meeting.

The meeting, held at the prime minister’s residence in Washington, emphasized the development of bilateral relations in accordance with the Strategic Framework Agreement signed between the two countries in 2006. The statement underscored the importance of establishing a “foundation of a long-term mutual relationship” and “expanding partnerships with the Iraqi private sector in critical areas relevant to the Iraqi market,” in a manner that serves the “interests of both countries.”

Turning to regional matters, Al-Sudani reiterated Iraq’s “firm stance against aggression and stressed the shared legal and moral responsibility to protect unarmed civilians and support efforts to prevent the escalation of the conflict,” the statement read.

While the statement from Al-Sudani’s office refrained from addressing the disputes between the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Delan Ghafoor, the head of the Iraqi Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, revealed that Blinken did inquire about unresolved oil and budget disagreements between Baghdad and Erbil.

“Prime Minister al-Sudani highlighted that resolving the issue could involve either amending the budget law or modifying the contracts between the Kurdistan region and the operating companies,” stated Ghafoor, an MP from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, who attended the meeting between Al-Sudani and Blinken. Al-Sudani further noted that neither the Kurdistan Region nor the foreign oil companies currently agree with these potential changes. Nonetheless, Al-Sudani acknowledged that “the export of oil from the Kurdistan region is in Iraq’s interest as it significantly impacts the national economy.”

The Iraqi prime minister’s visit to Washington followed a prior visit by KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani in late February, during which he met with Blinken, senior administration officials, and members of Congress. Barzani had urged the U.S. government to mediate between his government and Baghdad, addressing their diverging views. At that time, Blinken emphasized the “importance of the U.S. partnership” with Iraqi Kurdistan and voiced support for a “resilient” Kurdistan.

Kurdish officials accuse Baghdad of attempting to undermine the KRG’s autonomy and federal powers within Iraq. According to Ghafoor, this issue surfaced during Blinken and Al-Sudani’s Monday meeting. Blinken conveyed KRG concerns regarding threats to its political structure, prompting Al-Sudani to reassure that the Kurdistan region’s framework is “constitutionally established.”

Regarding the domiciliation of KRG employees’ salaries, as mandated by Iraq’s Federal Supreme Court, Al-Sudani explained to the U.S. Secretary of State that the system “benefits government employees and poses no risk to the region’s framework.” He expressed a desire for “all Iraqi government employees, from Basra to Sulaymaniyah, to receive their salaries simultaneously.” The Court’s decision to place KRG salaries under the control of federal government-controlled banks, bypassing the KRG, is viewed by Kurdish officials as a violation of the Constitution. Iraq’s Kurdish President Abdul Latif Rashid recently voiced concerns to the Court’s Chief Justice Jassim al-Omairi, highlighting the necessity to safeguard KRG’s financial powers in what seemed to be a pointed reference to the Court’s decisions on the issue.

Blinken also inquired about Al-Sudani’s government plans for rebuilding the Yazidi areas devastated by the Islamic State (ISIS) conflict as the 10th anniversary of the Yazidi genocide approaches in August. Al-Sudani affirmed his government’s determination to rehabilitate Sinjar, provide public services to the affected areas, and ensure the return of displaced Yazidis from camps to their homes within this year. However, Yazidis continue to express grievances over federal government neglect, as significant parts of the Sinjar area remain devastated even nine years after ISIS was expelled from the region.

Al-Sudani highlights future of Iraq-US relations in meeting with diaspora community

Al-Sudani highlights future of Iraq-US relations in meeting with diaspora community