Masoud Barzani, the Kurdish president, and Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State of the United States. Composite photo: KRP/US State
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The Kurdish presidency has denied that a telephone call took place this week between Kurdish President Masoud Barzani and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
“It has been reported by some media outlets that the US Secretary of State made a phone call with the President of Kurdistan Region in the last two days” read a statement from Dr. Omed Sabah, spokesperson of the Kurdistan Region Presidency.
“Hereby, we announce it to everyone that this news is false, and [that] His Excellency and the Secretary of State did not have a phone call these days,” it added.
The US Consulate General in Erbil had posted a statement on Facebook on Friday of what it said was readout of phone calls between Tillerson and "Iraqi Kurdistan President Masoud" Barzani, and Tillerson and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Thursday.
It stated Tillerson made the call to Barzani "to discuss the latest political and security developments in Iraq."
"The Secretary underlined the United States' opposition to holding a referendum for independence and conveyed continued US support for a unified, federal, and democratic Iraq," reads the statement that was removed from the Consulate's Facebook page sometime on Saturday.
It added during both calls: "He encouraged Prime Minister Abadi and President Barzani to engage in constructive dialogue on a full range of issues."
The readout also "praised the bravery of the Peshmerga and thanked them for their vital role in the defeat of ISIS in Mosul."
Additionally, the US readout stated "during both calls the Secretary reaffirmed United States Support for the Iraqi people and our common fight against ISIS and reiterated the need for continued strong cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil in their upcoming battles in Tel Afar and Hawijah."
Per the statement, Tillerson said "The United States and Iraq stand fully committed to a comprehensive partnership rooted in mutual respect and grounded in the United States-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement..."
The was no reference of the phone calls from Tillerson's office or from the US Embassy in Iraq.
On Friday, the US Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS held a briefing with reporters at the State Department in Washington, D.C.
Amid remarks about the long-delayed Hawija operation and coordination between Kurdish Peshmerga, Iraqi security and local forces, SPE Brett McGurk said Tillerson had spoken with Abadi and Barzani this week.
"And Secretary Tillerson spoke actually over the last couple days with Prime Minister Abadi and with President Barzani of the Kurdistan region about some of these next steps and about our position on some very important issues that Iraq is confronting," McGurk said.
The Iraqi Premier’s office confirmed a phone call between Tillerson and Abadi in a statement on Friday. It made no mention of a call between Barzani and Tillerson.
"US Secretary of State refereed [sic] to continuation of U.S support to the Iraq efforts in post-Daesh era, assuring the US's supportive stand and keen to Iraq unity, respecting its constitution," read the statement from Abadi.
In addition to anti-ISIS successes and stabilization, the readout referenced Abadi speaking of "not dismantling the unity efforts."
"Referring to the importance of providing services to the citizens , economy activation through fighting corruption, supporting investment , facilitating it's path, ensuring the importance of reestablishing international and regional cooperation, affirming the concentration on restoring stability, unity and prosperity to Iraq , not dismantling the unity efforts and ignoring the sidelines disputes," read the statement.
The United States has opposed the timing of the Kurdistan Region's referendum, citing the ongoing war with ISIS. Kurdish military and political leaders have said the referendum won't affect their ability to fight ISIS.
The Kurdistan Region plans to hold a referendum on independence on September 25.