US urges agreement on reopening Kurdish airports, paying salaries
Briefing reporters on Thursday, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan explained that on his visit to Baghdad and Erbil earlier this week, he had urged both parties to reach agreement on the issues that now divide them.
“I encouraged Prime Minister Abadi to continue to work with KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government] Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani to reach practical accommodations on matters such as the payment of salaries and reopening of airports in Iraqi Kurdistan to international flights in accordance with the Iraqi constitution,” Sullivan said.
He also explained that while in Baghdad, he had affirmed the US’ “continued commitment to a federal, prosperous, unified, and democratic Iraq, one that meets the aspirations of all Iraqis.”
“I also reinforced these points during my second stop in Iraq,” Sullivan continued, “which was in Erbil, to meet personally with Prime Minister Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Talabani.”
Responding to a question from Kurdistan 24, Sullivan explained, “Baghdad and Erbil have made progress” in resolving their disputes, while he had also encouraged “continued progress, continued dialogue.”
“We raised with both governments issues such as reopening the airports to international travel and payment of salaries,” he continued.
“The impression that I got from my discussions was that both sides believe that progress is being made,” Sullivan observed.
“My message to each party in Baghdad and Erbil was to continue those discussions, make progress on these issues—particularly those where the differences are small”—and, therefore, can be resolved with relative ease.
Sullivan also stressed the need to “establish more trust between the two governments,” so that it will be possible “to move forward and tackle the larger issues.”
Sullivan traveled to Baghdad as the head of a delegation to the fifth meeting of the US-Iraq Higher Coordinating Committee (HCC), which was established under the Strategic Framework Agreement, signed by the US and Iraq in December 2008 as George W. Bush’s presidency was drawing to a close.
The first HCC conference was held the following month when Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki led a delegation to Washington to meet with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during Bush’s last month in office.
However, the HCC was convened on only three occasions in the intervening eight years—which would seem to reflect the coolness in relations between Baghdad and Washington that developed after Bush left office.
Apparently, it is the determination of the Trump administration not to let that happen again.