President Barzani concludes official visit to United States
WASHINGTON DC, April 8 (AKnews): President of the Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani has concluded his official visit to Washington after a week of meetings with the President and Vice President of the United States, other top US administration officials, business leaders, academics, the media and members of the Kurdish community.
In his meetings at the White House, Barzani discussed developments in Iraq and expressed his concerns about the current political crisis that has engulfed the country. He described his discussions as constructive and encouraging.
“The most important point is that both President Obama and Vice President Biden reaffirmed that the United States is committed to its close and historic relationship with Kurdistan and the Kurdish people, and reaffirmed support for a federal, democratic and unified Iraq,” said Barzani.
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The Kurdistan president also met top state and defense department officials, where they discussed bilateral relations and security challenges facing Iraq as well as agreeing on ways to broaden the services provided by the US Consulate in Erbil.
Speaking to an audience at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Barzani provided an outlook on the current political and security challenges facing Iraq and the wider region. He said that if a solution to the increasing centralisation of power in the Iraqi prime minister's hands cannot be negotiated, the prospects for stability and progress will be bleak.
Following the remarks, Barzani took questions from the audience on a wide range of issues, from oil to the crisis in neighbouring Syria, to his call for the Kurdistan Workers' Party to abandon violence and seek a peaceful resolution with Turkey.
As part of the president's outreach to the business community, Barzani participated in a roundtable board meeting of the US-Kurdistan Business Council, an organisation established to promote trade and business between the US and Kurdistan.
Barzani was also received by the president of the US Chamber of Commerce, where the former highlighted the stable and secure business and investment climate in Kurdistan and encouraged more American businesses to participate in Kurdistan's growth.
Barzani met with the chairman, president and CEO of Exxon Mobil, Rex Tillerson. The chairman reaffirmed what he had previously stated publicly, that the company will continue its operations in the Kurdistan Region.
The oil major signed a contract with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) last year to explore six fields in Kurdistan. Despite speculation to the contrary, Tillerson said that Exxon is committed to the contracts it has signed with both the Iraqi government and with the KRG.
President Barzani concluded his visit by meeting with the Kurdish community in the Washington DC area and briefing them on his meeting in the country and the latest developments in Iraq. Barzani also visited the Iraqi Embassy.
He left Washington for Budapest, where he will meet the President and Prime Minister of Hungary.
Barzani was accompanied by the general director of the KRG Security Protection Agency, Masrour Barzani; chief of staff, Fuad Hussein; Minister for Natural Resources, Ashti Hawrami; head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations, Minister Falah Mustafa and the KRG representative to the US, Qubad Talabani.
The Kurdish president was received by the Iraqi ambassador, Talabani, and State Department officials.