Kurdistan president meets senior British officials, expresses willingness to expand cooperation

A combined picture of Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) and Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Liza Truss in London

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani met with senior British officials in London last week, expressing willingness to expand cooperation with UK.

Barzani visited Britain on Wednesday to hold talks with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Defense Ben Wallace and Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Liz Truss.

In his meeting with the British premier, Barzani expressed the Region’s willing to expand “all areas of mutual cooperation with the United Kingdom, especially in trade and investments,” the Region’s presidency said in a statement.

Johnson, for his part, expressed willingness to visit the Kurdistan Region, saying “I have great memories from the previous visit”, the statement said.

He visited Erbil in January 2015 when he was the mayor of London. He met with British troops training the Peshmerga during the fight against Islamic State (ISIS).

“The leaders agreed on the strength of the UK’s relationship, and our deep historic ties, with the Kurdish people and the whole of Iraq,” the British government said in a separate statement.

“They resolved to further deepen that relationship, particularly in areas such as trade and investment,” it added.

The two leaders also discussed the current situation in Afghanistan, stressing the need to prevent any “new terrorist threat” that emerges from the country, the statement read.

Regarding Iran, Johnson stressed the need for Iran to return to compliance with the nuclear deal with the world powers.

On Thursday, Barzani held talks with the UK foreign secretary in London, reiterating the Kurdistan Region’s willingness to strengthen and expand cooperation and partnership with Britain.

He also presented a brief note on the steps taken to unity the Peshmerga forces with the support from the UK, U.S. and Germany, the Region’s presidency said in a separate statement.

“The UK is committed to continue supporting Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, and working with allies and partners in the international coalition against ISIS,” Truss said.

She also “looked forward to expanding UK partnership and cooperation in all areas with Iraq and the Kurdistan Region,” the statement read.

The Region’s president also met with the British secretary of state for defense on Wednesday.

Both sides agreed that ISIS “is still a considerable threat to the security and stability of Iraq, the wider region and the world,” a Region’s presidency statement said.

They also affirmed the international community’s continued support for Iraq and the Kurdistan Region to completely eliminate ISIS, it added.

The UK defense secretary reiterated the “persistent commitment of the UK forces to eliminate ISIS,” the statement read.

He also underlined the UK’s support for Iraq and the Kurdistan Region in fighting terrorism, according to the statement.

Barzani also separately met with Speaker of the House of Lords John McFall, Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi, a native Kurd, and former British prime minister Sir John Major during his visit to London.

McFall praised the “democratic process” in the Kurdistan Region, a separate statement from the Region’s presidency said.

He commended the legislative quotas in the Kurdistan parliament to ensure the participation of women and representatives of all communities in the political process and governance, the statement read.

In his meeting with Zahawi, Barzani congratulated him on his appointment as the secretary of state for education.

“It’s an honor to see a Kurd hold an important ministerial position in Britain with great achievements in his political and administrative career,” he said.

Zahawi, for his part, reiterated the UK willingness to cooperate with the Kurdistan Region and Iraq in education.

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