KRG delegation briefs Washington on impact of economic slowdown in Kurdistan
Washington, DC, USA (us.gov.krd)
– ‘If this financial crisis continues, it will have a great effect on the front lines. You cannot send your fighters with empty stomachs to the fight,’ Dr Fuad Hussein told a group of journalists from American media outlets on Friday morning. He added, ‘We need support and help. We are [in Washington] to explain this to our friends.’’
Friday marked the fourth day of a delegation from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), which includes Dr Hussein, Chief of Staff to President Masoud Barzani, and Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations, accompanied by KRG Representative to the US Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman. The delegation continued outreach to US Administration and defense officials, also conducting separate roundtable discussions with US journalists and humanitarian organizations.
The delegation met with National Security Council staff at the White House, including Robert Malley, Special Assistant to President Obama and Coordinator for the Middle East, and advisors of the Vice President. The KRG officials asked the US to find ways to support the Peshmerga and the host communities, as well as the displaced. They said that the Peshmerga are ready to play a critical role in the liberation of Mosul.
Dr Hussein, Minister Bakir, and Representative Abdul Rahman met Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Elissa Slotkin (pictured) to discuss the effect that the economic crisis has had on the fight against ISIS and the shared responsibility for defeating the terror group. They also discussed the two brigades being trained and equipped by the US, especially as the Peshmerga, Coalition, and Iraqi Security Forces look to liberate Mosul. She commended the Peshmerga for their courage and dedication, and stressed the importance of the American partnership with Kurdistan.
The delegation met with Eric Meyer, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Middle East at the US Treasury Department. Among a range of issues discussed was the request for greater technical assistance to help in the management of reform and austerity in the Kurdistan Region.
As the price of oil dips below $30 per barrel, the KRG has struggled to pay salaries of public servants, including frontline Peshmerga troops. Earlier this year, the KRG Council of Ministers announced further austerity measures to be enacted as the KRG seeks to trim the region’s budget even further.
Dr Hussein and Representative Abdul Rahman met with Amos Hochstein, Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy at the US Department of State, to discuss a range of issues including the future of the energy sector in the Middle East.
Separately, Minister Bakir met a group of international humanitarian organizations gathered at InterAction, an umbrella entity for such NGOs. He briefed the group and answered questions, thanking the UN and NGOs for their hard work in addressing the needs of displaced people. He urged the group for more support for vulnerable people, and to help provide relief and development for both the displaced and the host communities which have been drastically affected by the humanitarian crisis. He stressed the need to address stabilization of the economy and critical infrastructures as a necessity for ongoing humanitarian operations.
InterAction is the largest alliance of US-based international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) focusing on disaster relief and sustainable development programs.
‘We thank you for your critical support in the humanitarian crisis in Kurdistan and Iraq. We have had a long history of working with humanitarian organizations and we need your help,’ Minister Bakir told them.
Since 2011, over 1.8 million Syrian refugees and internally displaced Iraqis have sought shelter in the Kurdistan Region. The KRG, UN, and many international NGOs are helping provide emergency relief aid to the displaced. Still, in 2015 funding for humanitarian programs lagged at 75% of the UN’s requirements. Numerous Washington-based NGOs are operating in the Kurdistan Region.
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