Press Conference at Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Press Conference
John J. Sullivan
Deputy Secretary of State
Baghdad, Iraq
January 28, 2018

DEPUTY SECRETARY SULLIVAN: Thank you, Your Excellency. It is a pleasure to be here this afternoon at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to meet with my friend and colleague, the deputy foreign minister, and his colleagues from the Iraqi Government. We had very productive meetings today.

And the first thing I would like to do is to extend our sincerest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to all those who were affected by the terrorist attack in Tayaran Square. The United States will continue to partner with the Government of Iraq to improve security for the Iraqi people and to prevent the resurgence of terrorism that threatens both of our nations and the entire international community.

However, our strategic relationship with Iraq goes well beyond counterterrorism. The United States is committed to expanding our economic and cultural partnership with Iraq, as established in the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement. Our partnership is strong and will continue to grow, and was enhanced by the discussion we had today.

The United States offers our sincere congratulations to the Iraqi people and to the brave Iraqi Security Forces, many of whom lost their lives heroically fighting ISIS and liberating their land. This is a battle Iraqis fought for Iraq, but is also a battle the Iraqis have fought on behalf of the entire world. And we are immensely grateful to the people of Iraq for their determination, bravery, and sacrifice.

ISIS and its ideology remain the true enemies of Iraq, which is why the Iraqi people and the global coalition of 74 member nations will maintain their focus on eliminating this menace. Iraq, like the United States, is a country of great diversity, and each and every one of Iraq’s communities have contributed to the life, history, and culture of this ancient civilization.

Unity is Iraq’s best weapon against ISIS and other extremist groups. So, we greatly support the practical dialogue occurring between Erbil and Baghdad, and are very much encouraged by the recent progress we have seen.

In my meetings today I will underscore the need for a continued dialogue between the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government. I encourage my Iraqi partners to continue to work with KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani to reach practical accommodations on matters such as the payment of salaries and re-opening airports to international flights, in accordance with the Iraqi constitution. The United States supports a federal, prosperous, unified, and democratic Iraq, one that meets the aspirations of all Iraqis.

And, I am grateful for the opportunity to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to support the Government of Iraq and its efforts to bring security and prosperity to all of its people. Victory against ISIS on the battlefield was necessary, but not sufficient to give Iraqi citizens the confidence, the support, and the services they need to safely and voluntarily return home and continue their lives. The United States is committed to assisting the victims of ISIS atrocities, to promoting religious freedom, and protecting religious diversity and pluralism.

One example of this staunch commitment can be seen in the U.S.-funded partners who have removed more than 36,000 kilograms of explosive material from Anbar and Ninewa Provinces. The U.S. has also provided more than $1.7 billion in humanitarian assistance since 2014, providing for the basic needs of Iraqis displaced from their homes by ISIS. This is in addition to over $190 million in support for stabilization projects administered by UNDP, enabling more than three million Iraqis to return home.

However, to safeguard an enduring stabilization across the country, Iraq must rebuild. The needs are tremendous, and the only way to attain lasting success is by encouraging private-sector investment and growth. That is why the United States strongly supports the reconstruction conference that is being hosted in Kuwait in two weeks’ time. And to demonstrate that support, we will be sending a large delegation of U.S. businesses that are excited by the prospect of investing in Iraq.

As Iraqis work to rebuild their communities, this task must be matched by one that is equally as important, and equally as urgent: inclusive political and economic progress. It will be this work, the painstaking labors of community-led reconciliation and governance, that will ensure an end to ISIS, for good.

So, in addition to promoting Iraq’s economic development, the U.S. also intends to support Iraq’s electoral process. We support Prime Minister Abadi’s decision to hold elections on May 12th, which is on time and in accordance with Iraq’s constitution. Postponing these important elections would set a dangerous precedent, one that could undermine the democratic progress Iraq has realized over the past decade and a half. USAID will help train election monitors and assist the Independent High Election Commission to ensure that displaced Iraqis have a chance to vote, and that electronic voting systems are effective and uncorrupted.

All Iraqis of all communities, ethnic backgrounds, and faiths must know that the state that they have created and fought for will stand up for their rights. And the United States is committed to helping Iraqis realize that vision. Together, our governments and our people can overcome the challenges before us and secure a sovereign, stable, unified, and democratic Iraq that fosters the aspirations of all.

Thank you very much.