Saturday, April 23, 2022

Special Briefing via Telephone with Jennifer Gavito, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran:

MODERATOR: Great, thank you, DAS Gavito. So now we’ll do a question from our live queue, and it will go to Rahim Rashidi from Kurdistan. Operator, please open the line.
QUESTION: Good morning. Yeah, good morning from beautiful Virginia. Thank you for this opportunity. I would like to ask you, as you know, Prime Minister Masrour Barzani was in Dubai during this week, and last week actually, and he was in London as well. He addressed about Kurdistan is able to provide gas to international marketing. What is U.S. position about that? And as you said, you were in Kurdistan; what you discussed over there? Thank you.
DAS GAVITO: Sure, thank you so much for the question. I was recently, as I mentioned, in Erbil and had the opportunity to meet with both the leadership there, to include Kak Masoud, Masrour Barzani, Nechirvan Barzani, as well as a range of civil society and other actors. As far as our conversations there, the relationship between the KRG [Iraqi Kurdistan Region] and the United States historically is very strong and very close, and the trips are an opportunity to reiterate our commitment to the prosperity of the Kurdish people within a strong and sovereign Iraq.
So, they were good conversations. Again, I don’t want to get into specifics of what we discussed, but I can just say it ran the full range of our concern over government formation, including the need for Kurdish unity, moving forward in order to protect the well-being of the Kurdish people within the context of a federal Iraq. We talked about human rights and press freedom issues. We discussed the oil and gas sector, as you might imagine. And so, it was a wide-ranging conversation, very, very positive.
As far as the specifics of the oil and gas sector, we understand the importance of it to the Kurdistan Regional Government and to the economy of the Kurdistan region. Again, we support a stable, prosperous, democratic, and unified Iraq that includes the Kurdistan Region. And Iraq is obviously a strategic partner of the U.S. We have a long-term commitment there. Therefore, in our view, it’s important that the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government come to the table to negotiate a solution to the oil issue that is acceptable to both parties.
Thanks for that, and I’d refer back to what I just said for a good deal of that. However, just to reinforce that the assistance that we’re providing falls into the vein of advise, assist, and enable. I can’t speak to specific operations or specific capabilities, but our goal is to ensure that the Iraqi Security Forces are absolutely able to address any threats to Iraqi sovereignty – and that includes the Peshmerga, of course, which we continue to also support, including through the reform process.
So yeah, I mean, these attacks are outrageous, they have to stop, and fly in the face of what we saw as the outcome of the elections in October. So, we will continue to provide the assistance needed as Iraqi Security Forces confront this.

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