Democrats urge Biden to press Iraq's Al Sudani on Elizabeth Tsurkov in White House visit

Israeli-Russian Princeton University student has been held captive for more than a year

Iraq's Prime Minister Mohamed Shia Al Sudani speaks a press conference in Baghdad in December last year. AFP
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Congressional Democrats are urging US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to use a coming visit by Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani's as “an expedient opportunity” to press Baghdad on the detention of Elizabeth Tsurkov.

“Ms Tsurkov has now spent a year in captivity,” reads a letter addressed to Mr Biden and Mr Blinken obtained by The National.

“Contrary to the categorically false and coerced statements that KH [Kataib Hezbollah] released in a proof-of-life video of Ms Tsurkov last November, she is not a CIA agent.”

Ms Tsurkov, an Israeli-Russian doctoral student at Princeton University, was conducting research in Baghdad when she was kidnapped last March.

The Israeli government believes she is being held by Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed armed militia operating in Iraq that has also been blamed for a series of attacks on US troops in the region.

The letter's signatories said they wrote it ahead of Mr Al Sudani's visit “in the hopes that the [State] Department can continue to take advantage of all opportunities to resolve her case expeditiously and safely return Ms Tsurkov to her family and friends”.

The letter has 16 signatories, all Democrats.

Mr Al Sudani is scheduled to meet Mr Biden on April 15 “to co-ordinate on common priorities and reinforce the strong bilateral partnership between the United States and Iraq”, the White House announced.

Amid mounting international pressure, Baghdad has said it would show no leniency to Ms Tsurkov's kidnappers.

In September, Mr Al Sudani said that Iraq's “security forces are responsible for ensuring security for all those arriving in Iraq, including the woman who entered Iraq with a Russian passport and disappeared months ago”, referring to Ms Tsurkov.

“We are following the case, we are serious about revealing her fate and we will not be lenient,” he told CNN.

During the visit next week, Mr Biden and Mr Sudani will consult on a range of issues, “including our shared commitment to the lasting defeat of ISIS and evolution of the military mission nearly 10 years after forming the successful Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS”, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Updated: April 08, 2024, 9:00 PM