White House announces US-Iraq strategic dialogue next month

The talks will be the first under the Biden administration and follow a request from Baghdad

FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2020 file photo, U.S. Soldiers stand at a site of Iranian bombing at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar, Iraq. On Tuesday, March 23, 2021, Iraqi officials said Iraq has sent a formal request to President Joe Biden’s administration for a date to resume strategic talks on bilateral relations and the withdrawal of remaining U.S. combat forces. The talks, which began in June under the Trump administration, would be the first under Biden, who assumed office in January. (AP Photo/Qassim Abdul-Zahra, File)

The Biden administration on Tuesday said a new round of US-Iraq strategic talks would take place next month to discuss issues including the purpose of the US and coalition presence in the country.

“We look forward to renewing our strategic dialogue with the government of Iraq over the month of April,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, without specifying a date.

Trade, culture and climate matters are to be discussed, along with security and US forces in Iraq.

“The meetings will further clarify that coalition forces are in Iraq solely for the purpose of training and advising Iraqi forces to ensure that ISIS cannot reconstitute,” Ms Psaki said.

“The United States is committed first and foremost to Iraq’s sovereignty and we look forward to these important discussions with Iraqi leaders on the future of our partnership, as outlined in the Strategic Framework Agreement between our two countries.”

The announcement follows a formal request from Baghdad to the Biden administration to resume these talks, Iraqi officials told AP on Tuesday.

The first round of strategic dialogue between the US and Iraq happened under the administration of president Donald Trump last June.

Since then, the government in Baghdad has been under increased pressure to review the status of US troops in the country.

Before leaving office, Mr Trump ordered a reduction in the number of US troops in Iraq to 2,500.

But US-Iraq joint bases have been increasingly under attack from Iraqi militias supported by Iran in the past 18 months.

US President Joe Biden's first call to the Arab world was to Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi in February.

“He affirmed US support for Iraq’s sovereignty and independence and commended the prime minister’s leadership,” the White House said at the time.

"They discussed the importance of advancing the strategic dialogue between our countries and expanding bilateral co-operation on other key issues."

The event will probably take place online. Mr Biden has not welcomed any foreign dignitaries to the White House because of the Covid-19 pandemic

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