Pompeo meets senior Kurdish leaders in Kurdistan following visit to Baghdad

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in the Kurdistan Region capital of Erbil on Wednesday and met with senior Kurdish leaders.

Pompeo met separately with the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and the former President of the Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani, Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, and Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) Masrour Barzani.

According to Masoud Barzani’s press office, during the meeting, both sides “discussed the political situation in Iraq and the region, Erbil and Baghdad relations, and the fight against terror.”

Pompeo highlighted the cooperation between the US and Kurdish Peshmerga forces which resulted in success in the fight against the so-called Islamic State (IS) and underlined the Kurdistan Region’s importance for Washington, the statement said.

The US official also explained Washington’s strategy in Syria and the withdrawal of its troops in the war-torn country. Barzani expressed his concerns about the fate of the Kurdish people in Syria and hoped that the current developments would not cause further suffering for the Kurds in the neighboring state, the statement added.

In the meeting with Masrour, “the two discussed a range of issues of bilateral importance, including developments in Iraq, Syria and the region,” a KRSC statement read.

“They also discussed the next stage of the longstanding Kurdistan Region-United States relationship” and “reviewed progress in talks between Erbil-Baghdad.”

Both officials expressed continued support for the anti-IS campaign, the statement added.

A statement on Prime Minister Nechirvan’s Facebook account said the two officials “had a productive meeting” to strengthen bilateral ties further and discuss latest developments in the region.

His visit comes on the same day he met with Iraqi officials in Baghdad, including Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, Iraqi Parliamentary Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, President Barham Salih, and Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Hakim.

During his meetings in Baghdad, Pompeo reaffirmed the withdrawal of US troops from Syria and warned that Iran remains a regional security threat. He also visited American troops in Iraq.

His tour of the Middle East comes months after Trump imposed the second round of sanctions on Tehran. Pompeo aims to rally Arab states to counter Iran’s growing influence in the Middle East, namely in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

During his meeting with Abdul-Mahdi, the Secretary underlined “the US commitment to Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity… and discussed the recent territorial defeat of ISIS in Syria and the continuation of our cooperation with Iraqi Security Forces to ensure ISIS’ lasting defeat throughout the region,” according to a State Department statement.

Pompeo’s visit to Iraq comes less than two weeks after Trump’s surprise visit to US troops at al-Asad Air Base outside of Baghdad which sparked many criticisms inside the country.

The US currently has over 5,200 troops in Iraq after it toppled the authoritarian regime in the country in 2003, more than 15 years ago.

Over the past years, as part of the global coalition to defeat IS, the US has provided military support to Iraqi forces through air strikes and Special Forces.