President of Iraqi Kurdistan Masoud Barzani with Peshmerga forces. File photo
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ERBIL – The US State Department spokesman Mark Toner denied Kurdish media reports that the formal agreement between the Iraqi Kurdish government and the US was done without the approval of Baghdad. He also emphasized future humanitarian assistance to Iraq will be through the Iraqi central government.
On Tuesday, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the US signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that includes $415 million in aid for the Kurdish Peshmerga forces–that are fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) in northern Iraq. Local media reports suggested that the agreement was done without the approval of the Iraqi central government in Baghdad. However, the US government says Baghdad approved this.
“It was done with the full consent of the government in Baghdad,” Toner said on Wednesday. “(…) which has been, frankly, a consistent part of our process of assisting the Iraqi Government all along – either through the Department of State or through the Department of Defense – which is we are working to support those Kurdish forces who have shown tremendous skill, tremendous courage on the battlefield fighting Daesh, driving it out of territories that it’s controlling,” he added.
“And, as I said, we’re working hard to support those efforts. We do that, though, through the command and control of the Iraqi Government. And we’ve talked about this not just with respect to the Kurds but with other fighting groups in Iraq, because the ultimate goal here – what we want to build here – is the capability of the Iraqi Government to provide its own security for its people. That’s been an overarching goal. We don’t want to necessarily always have to be there to support them; we want to build their capability to provide that kind of security,” Toner stated.
Reporters also asked why the KRG is not invited to a Pledging Conference in Washington DC in support of Iraq on July 20 in Washington, co-hosted by the US, Canada, Germany and Japan that will aim provide more financial support for humanitarian assistance and stabilization efforts in a post-ISIS period.
“That is, of course, an opportunity for us to enhance our humanitarian assistance and our stabilization assistance to the Government of Iraq, which includes the Kurds. That’s part of it, and I don’t want there to be any kind of confusion there. But that’s going to be through the Iraqi Government – that assistance is going to be, again, through the command and control of the Iraqi Government,” Toner said.
“But to imply that we’re somehow not engaged or not working directly with the Kurds as much as possible, hearing their concerns, discussing with them their concerns – I mean, look, we have – we’ve had senior U.S. officials, including Brett McGurk frequently, who have traveled to Kurdistan Regional Government – Kurdistan, rather – on nearly every trip that they’ve made to the region, and we’re going to continue to do that,” the US State Department spokesman concluded.
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg
Source: ARA News