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Iraq: Prime Minister invited to meet with Biden at White House

September 19, 2023 at 9:04 am

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani in Baghdad, Iraq on January 21, 2023 [IRAQI PRIME MINISTRY PRESS OFFICE/Anadolu Agency]

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in New York on Monday and received an invitation from President Joe Biden to visit the White House, a State Department spokesperson has announced.

Sudani is in New York to participate in the UN General Assembly, Reuters has reported. According to Iraqi state media, a date for the official visit to Washington would be set at a later time.

Biden and Sudani have yet to meet since Sudani took office last year after being appointed by a coalition of parties, predominantly Shia Muslim groups close to Tehran. He has since walked a diplomatic tightrope between the US and Iran, two countries that in the past have fought out their rivalry on Iraqi soil.

Sudani and Blinken “renewed their commitment to continue strengthening the partnership between the two countries,” said the State Department spokesperson.

Iraq has been a close partner of the US since Washington’s 2003 invasion and both sides say that they are trying to broaden their relationship from a near-singular focus on defence and counter-terrorism towards economic cooperation.

During their meeting, Blinken “underscored US support” for the reopening of a pipeline between Iraq’s northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region and Turkiye that has been shut since March. Turkiye said last week that the pipeline, which contributes about 0.5 per cent of world oil supply, would be ready to resume operations soon, though it is unclear whether Baghdad and Ankara have agreed to the terms of a resumption of crude flows.

Blinken also “commended the prime minister’s commitment to judicial independence in Iraq’s recent conviction and sentencing of multiple individuals on terrorism charges in connection with the killing of US citizen Stephen Troell.”

Iraq sentenced an Iranian man and four Iraqis to life in prison last month over Troell’s November 2022 murder in a middle class neighbourhood in central Baghdad. Court officials did not name the defendants but said that the four Iraqis were members of a Shia Muslim militia.

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