ERBIL — Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani received on Tuesday US Secretary of Defense James Mattis in Erbil to discuss latest security and political developments in the region, including anti-Islamic State campaign and Kurdistan’s independence referendum.
“During the meeting President Barzani and Secretary Mattis reviewed some of the developments in recent and ongoing operations against the terrorists of the Islamic State. The two sides spoke attentively about the Mosul operation,” reads a press release by Barzani’s office.
“Secretary Mattis saluted the Iraqi and Peshmerga forces for the successful operation which ended in the complete liberation of the city. He then conveyed, on behalf of the United States military his condolences to the families and loved ones of those who were perished during that operation. Additionally Secretary Mattis commended President Barzani for his leadership and added that his wisdom plays a very important role insofar as the morale of the Peshmerga forces is concerned.”
Discussing the planned independence referendum for 25th September, Barzani reiterated that the plan is “a solution and not an obstacle”.
“He then briefed Secretary Mattis on the old and modern issues that the people of Kurdistan have had with Baghdad and that no real partnership has ever been accepted by the latter. The President then reassured Secretary Mattis and the accompanying delegation that the referendum would not create any problems for the operations against the terrorists of the Islamic State and that the courage of the Peshmerga forces shall remain unwavering against this brutal common enemy which poses a threat to all of humankind and not only to Iraq and Kurdistan,” reads the press release.
Secretary Mattis stated that he understands the grievances of the people of the Kurdistan Region and also added that such step is a natural right of any group of people.
However, he said the announcement of independence vote last June was unexpected for the government of United States, especially due to the military operations against the terrorists of the Islamic State.
“The Secretary said that the government of the United States is concerned that the referendum may cause obstacles for the collective efforts against the terrorists of the Islamic State.”
Mattis was accompanied by Brett McGurk, the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State, as well as a number of military and diplomatic officials.