KRG delegation calls for US support as it tackles economic crisis
Washington DC, USA (us.gov.krd) –
A delegation of Kurdistan Regional Government officials concluded a week-long visit to Washington on Monday in which they set out the urgent need for assistance in the face of a growing financial crisis.
Throughout the week Dr Fuad Hussein, Chief of Staff to President Barzani, Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the Department of Foreign Relations, and Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, KRG Representative to the United States, met with numerous US Administration and defense officials, members of Congress, regional experts, and American and Kurdish media outlets. They were in Washington to convey the dire financial circumstances facing the Kurdistan Region as a direct result of the humanitarian crisis and the war against ISIS, combined with the fall in oil prices.
The delegation thanked the US for its timely and ongoing military and humanitarian support for the people of Kurdistan and Iraq. They stressed the importance of Kurdistan’s cooperation with America in fighting ISIS which both sides see as a long-term partnership.
Since 2011, over 1.8 million Syrian refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) from Iraq have taken shelter in the Kurdistan Region. Many hundreds of thousands come from a diverse set of ethnic and religious identities, including Yezidi, Shabak, and Kakai Kurds, Assyrian and Chaldean Christians, as well as Arabs and Turkmen from both Shi’a and Sunni sects. Many have fled genocide and crimes against humanity committed by ISIS.
In 2014, the World Bank and KRG Ministry of Planning issued a report which concluded that the KRG would require $1.4 billion to $2.4 billion to stabilize the economy because of the humanitarian crisis. The costly war against ISIS has also added to the KRG’s financial burden, as the Peshmerga defend a 1,000km (650 miles) front with the terror group and have liberated almost all Kurdistani areas, including the strategic city of Shingal, also known as Sinjar. Salaries to all civil servants, including frontline Peshmerga, the police, teachers and doctors, have been delayed by several months and services are stretched as Kurdistan’s population has jumped by 30 percent as a result of the influx of displaced people.
In meetings at the White House, State Department, Pentagon, Treasury Department, and Congress, the KRG officials said that defeating terror in the region and caring for refugees is not the sole responsibility of the KRG, but a shared one. As the impact on the economy reaches critical levels, the KRG is requesting financial assistance from its international partners to ensure that the Peshmerga and KRG civil infrastructures remain intact and the displaced and host communities remain in Kurdistan rather than flee to Europe and beyond.
During the week, the KRG officials met with a number of US government officials. They included Commander of US Central Command General Lloyd Austin, the White House National Security Council team, Assistant Secretary of Defense Alissa Slotkin, Assistant Secretaries of State Anne Richard and Tom Malinowski, as well as numerous Deputy Assistant Secretaries at the State and Treasury Departments. They met with members of key Congressional committees, including Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Senator John McCain and Ranking Member on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations Senator Patrick Leahy.
The delegation briefed the media, including the Washington Post Editorial Board, AP NewsMakers, and a group of Kurdish media outlets at a press conference hosted at the KRG Representation. They also spoke to international humanitarian NGOs at roundtable meeting, and at a dinner reception hosted by the US-Kurdistan Business Council.