Blinken and Iraqi Foreign Minister discuss security co-operation before Al Sudani visit

Iraqi Prime Minister will hold talks with US President Joe Biden next month

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, meets Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein at the State Department in Washington. AFP
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Iraq's Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein met in Washington on Tuesday, with talks focused on issues including security co-operation before Prime Minister Mohammed Al Sudani's visit next month.

Mr Blinken received Mr Hussein at the State Department, where he said officials were looking forward to Mr Al Sudani's meeting with President Joe Biden, “as well as dealing with some of the immediate challenges on our plate”.

“For us, Iraq is … critical to the stability of the region and, once again, with which we have not only a long-standing relationship, but one that is comprehensive in the issues that it covers,” he said.

Mr Hussein said before the meeting that his delegation would aim to discuss the situation in the Middle East and “the tension there” during the visit, although he did not specify where.

“And we are going to work together also to have less tension in that area,” he said.

The two leaders discussed “efforts to enhance the Baghdad-Erbil relationship, bring economic benefits to all Iraqis, improve Iraq’s energy independence, strengthen Iraq’s ability to fully exercise its sovereignty, and promote stability and security for all Iraqis”, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

Mr Al Sudani, who will visit the White House on April 15, continues to be under pressure to ensure the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

There are about 2,500 US troops in Iraq serving in an advise-and-assist capacity as part of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

Talks are continuing between Washington and Baghdad over the future role of the anti-ISIS coalition in Iraq.

Both leaders “reaffirmed their commitment to the Higher Military Commission process”, Mr Miller said, referring to talks on the future of the US presence in the country.

The process “will enable the transition to a durable bilateral security partnership between Iraq and the United States and help to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS”, he said.

Mr Hussein's visit also follows a series of US strikes on Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq last month, in retaliation for attacks on American troops in the Middle East.

Maj Gen Yahya Rasool, Mr Al Sudani's military spokesman, called the strikes a “violation of Iraq's sovereignty”.

ISIS still a threat, diplomats say after Moscow attack

Mr Blinken and Mr Hussein also warned that the recent terrorist attack at a concert hall in Moscow showed that ISIS remains a threat in the region and elsewhere.

At least 137 people were killed in the attack at Crocus City Hall on March 22, which was claimed by ISIS-Khorasan, which is mainly based in Afghanistan.

“This is a very unfortunate reminder that we have to continue to deal with ISIS and make sure that doesn't revive,” Mr Blinken said.

“Despite the very good work that we've done over the years, and dealing with that threat … we're reminded by the horrific attack outside of Moscow just a few days ago that ISIS remains a potentially potent force and one that we have to continue to deal with.”

Mr Hussein joined Mr Blinken in condemning the attack, saying it showed ISIS remained a threat to peace in the Middle East and around the globe.

Iraq expects an apology from Iran for recent attacks

Iraq expects an apology from Iran for recent attacks
Updated: March 28, 2024, 12:44 PM