US National Security Advisor HR McMaster (left) meets with KRSC Chancellor Masrour Barzani (center), KRG Representative to the US Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman and Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff to the Kurdish president. Photo: KRG-US
WASHINGTON, D.C. — After meeting with top US officials in Washington including National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner, Kurdistan Region Security Council Chancellor (KRSC) Masrour Barzani talked about Erbil’s vision and roadmap to promote stability in the region.
"We are very encouraged by our friendship and the encouraging words that we heard from Americans about our relationship with the United States and our region,” Barzani said while speaking at the Heritage Foundation, a DC-based conservative think tank.
"We do have a vision. We do have a roadmap. And we are willing to share those views with Baghdad and all the neighboring countries about what needs to be done to make sure that we will have a sustainable solution for peace and stability in our region,” he added.
The Kurdish delegation including Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff to the Kurdish president, and the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Representative to the US Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, expressed that they are grateful for contributions in the fight against ISIS and want to work towards a common understanding between Erbil and Washington.
"All the contribution that comes from the outside has to be synchronized and go hand-in-hand with the expectations and the solution that the people of the region themselves want," Barzani said after thanking European and anti-ISIS Coalition nations for their recent support while referencing "past mistakes of 100 years ago."
"We have exchanged our views with the officials here. We have already talked about our expectations and what we think would be a sustainable solution for the region especially in Iraq. With a common understanding we can secure a better future for all of us,” Barzani added.
A referendum on independence is being undertaken this year so people in the Kurdistan Region can express their own desires to the government.
“We need to know what the Kurdish people say and the people of Kurdistan. For that reason we have to and we have decided to have a referendum. We need to ask our people how they envision their future relationship with Baghdad,” Barzani said.
Barzani was asked about a reported new status of forces agreement between Washington and Baghdad, and also the openness of the Kurdistan Region for a US air base.
"We as the Kurds have always been in favor of having the American troops in our country,” he said. "I wouldn't say that we offer any alternatives [to Incirlik] but we have certainly offered our willingness to cooperate with the United States and if they're willing to use the facilities that exist in Kurdistan, we have already welcomed that.
Barzani cited the few number of terrorist attacks in the Kurdistan Region as compared to Iraq.
"If you look at Kurdistan it's an oasis of stability in a sea of war and problems and challenges,” he said.
In addition to McMaster and Kushner, the US group included Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counter-Terrorism Tom Bossert, and other National Security Council staff.
The Kurdish delegation will meet other US officials from the defense and state departments this week. It's the highest-level delegation that Erbil has sent to Washington since Donald Trump was inaugurated as president in January. Barzani also headed a delegation in December 2016.
"We are very encouraged by having many friends in this administration as well. We understand that they are still listening to many different sides and they are trying to make up their mind about their policy,” Barzani said. “But we are pleased with the discussions we've had ...
“We always have high expectations from the United States especially after all the sacrifices that our people and our Peshmerga have done and all the blood we've shed together. We hope the Peshmerga and the Kurdish people will be rewarded for their sacrifice.”