Yesterday, Secretary Kerry met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari to discuss recent developments in Iraq and the region. The Secretary reaffirmed our countries’ strong partnership and committed to continuing to work closely with the Government of Iraq on our shared challenges.
The Secretary and the Foreign Minister discussed the situation in Syria. The Secretary reaffirmed that the United States continues to work aggressively for a political solution and the two exchanged views on advancing momentum towards convening the Geneva II conference. The Secretary expressed our concern about the increasingly sectarian nature of the Syrian conflict and the connection with the increased levels of violence that we have seen in Iraq. He also urged Iraq to enhance measures to deter the military resupply of the Assad regime and thereby increase the pressure that will be necessary to advance a political solution.
Secretary Kerry noted his appreciation and support for Foreign Minister Zebari’s October 25 visit to Ankara to advance Iraq-Turkey relations and to discuss the mutual interest of bringing stability to the region. The Secretary expressed his hope that this diplomatic initiative will continue to bear positive results and offered to provide any assistance that may be helpful to facilitate this effort. The Secretary and Foreign Minister also discussed Iraq’s strengthening relations with Kuwait and Jordan and noted Iraq’s outreach to other nations in the region. He assured the Foreign Minister that the United States would continue to support Iraq’s efforts to improve relations with other neighbors in the region.
The Secretary welcomed the recent Iraqi announcement that national parliamentary elections will be held by April 30, 2014. Both agreed on the importance, in the period leading up to the elections, of finding common ground on outstanding political issues to address the legitimate concerns of those who have expressed grievances over the political process so as to not allow violent extremists further opportunity to exploit the situation. The Secretary emphasized that we will work with the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq and Iraqi political leaders to ensure that the elections are technically prepared, occur on schedule, and be seen as credible and legitimate.
Finally, the Foreign Minister noted the Government of Iraq’s appreciation for the U.S. program to support War Widows in Iraq, launched in 2009. As part of the transition from U.S. assistance programs, Minister Zebari agreed that the Government of Iraq would continue to support this program as an important element of cooperation under the Strategic Framework Agreement.