News

Gates Cites Arab-Kurd Progress in Iraq

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says Iraqi Arab and Kurdish leaders have made progress in recent weeks toward resolving their differences over power sharing and the status of the city of Kirkuk. Gates met Friday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad and with Kurdish President Masoud Barzani at his regional capital, Irbil.

Secretary Gates speaks to US troops at Forward Operating Base Warrior, 11 Dec 2009
Secretary Gates speaks to US troops at Forward Operating Base Warrior, 11 Dec 2009

Multimedia

Audio

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says Iraqi Arab and Kurdish leaders have made progress in recent weeks toward resolving their differences over power sharing and the status of the city of Kirkuk. Gates met Friday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad and with Kurdish President Masoud Barzani at his regional capital, Irbil. 

In-between the meetings in Baghdad and Irbil, Secretary Gates stopped at a U.S. airbase near the disputed city of Kirkuk, where he told several hundred American troops he sees signs of progress toward resolving Iraq's Arab-Kurd dispute.  "I actually think they've made some real headway in recent weeks," he said.

Answering a question from one of the American soldiers, Gates called Iraq's Arab-Kurd issue "perhaps the most worrisome" in the country.  But he said he believes it can be resolved without violence. "There is no question that the Kurds see their future as part of a unified Iraq.  And what's at issue is the terms on which that goes forward.  That's negotiable.  And we'll do what we can.  But at this point, all the evidence that we see indicates that they will work out these differences.  And to the degree we can help, we will do that," he said.

U.S. officials who attended the meetings say Secretary Gates urged Prime Minister Maliki and regional President Barzani to ensure the new parliament forms a government in a "timely and inclusive" manner after the March 7 election.  Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell says Gates urged both leaders to avoid a repetition of the "painful memory" of the five-month government formation process in 2005.  U.S. officials are concerned such a prolonged political process will create an opening for al-Qaida to try to foment ethnic strife, just as tens of thousands of U.S. troops are scheduled to be leaving Iraq.

Morrell quoted Gates as telling President Barzani the United States has a long-term commitment to Kurdish "security, prosperity and autonomy within a united Iraq."  And he urged the Kurdish leader to continue to pursue improved relations with Baghdad.

On Thursday, the number two U.S. commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Charles Jacoby, said the improved cooperation between Prime Minister Maliki and President Barzani has led to reduced tension between the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish Peshmerga force. "The act of interest and trust of those two leaders has led to greater cooperation within the disputed internal boundaries amongst all parties.  And we have not had the kinds of friction that's been seen in the past.  In fact, it's been a very solid relationship," he said.

General Jacoby says the Iraqi and Kurdish forces have begun to put aside political differences and, with American help, start to build what he called "a security architecture."

U.S. officials say they are in a better position to mediate and press for the resolution of difficult issues while the United States has a sizable military force in Iraq.

That force is scheduled to be reduced from nearly 120,000 now to 50,000 by next October, and to zero by the end of 2011, although Secretary Gates said Friday there could be a follow-on agreement for some U.S. troops to stay, particularly elements of the Air Force.  Gates said he expects the Iraqi Arab and Kurdish leaders to settle their disagreements in what he called a "timely fashion," that will not affect the U.S. withdrawal timeline.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs