Joe Biden

Remarks to the Press by the Vice President with President of the Kurdistan Regional Government Massoud Barzani in Irbil, Iraq

September 17, 2009

VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Thank you, Mr. President, for your hospitality. I seem to bring bad weather to Irbil. (Laughter.) When I was to meet with you last, there was a severe sandstorm and we had to postpone the meeting.

As the President knows, I very much wanted to return to Irbil. I had the pleasure of being here some time ago, and it is a -- it's an honor to be back.

Last time the weather prevented my making it to Irbil. I promised President Barzani and President Talabani that I would make a return visit. And I make that promise again.

The United States understands that the Kurdish people, like so many other Iraqis, suffered terribly -- suffered terribly under the rule and the regime of Saddam Hussein. And the United States and the rest of the world will never forget that. The transformation and the economic development of this region since 2003 -- indeed, since the 1990s -- has been a truly remarkable transformation and a success story.

We landed in a beautiful airport, even though it wasn't instrument landing. And during the ride through the city, I was once again struck as I was seven years ago, by how much positive activity -- building and development -- is taking place.

The President and I have been conversing on the telephone the last couple of months, and I apologize for monopolizing so much of his time in our private meeting. But as the President suggested, there are a number of very important issues that we wanted to discuss with one another. President Barzani and the new Kurdish parliament are going to face a number of key issues in their upcoming term. And I've been impressed by the willingness and the commitment of the President to -- again, to negotiating good faith with his colleagues in Baghdad on a number of these issues.

For as the President said to me that he can only resolve these issues within the constitution and through good-faith negotiations between the Kurdistan regional government and the Iraqi national government. He knows, and we all know, these are difficult issues. If they weren't, they would have been resolved a long time ago.

So I commend President Barzani and President Talabani -- as well as meetings I had yesterday at length with Prime Minister Maliki -- who are, I believe, striving to resolve some of these very difficult issues that are outstanding. Although we did discuss specific details, I think it's totally inappropriate for us to discuss them publicly. But let me say that I'm convinced that there is good faith and a genuine desire to reach a fair compromise among all the parties that I mentioned.

The United States fully understands -- recognizes, and supports -- the notion that there's a sovereign Iraqi government. But we stand ready to use our good offices to support Iraqi national unity. Above all, the United States remains committed to a long-term, bilateral relationship with a united Iraq. We stand ready to continue this partnership with President Barzani and the other leaders of Iraq -- all those who are willing to make this country safer -- and to take the concrete, although difficult steps that still remain to ensure Iraq's long-term success and unity.

And, Mr. President, if you don't mind a personal reference, I am a general -- I am a genuine admirer of the courage that you showed when your people were under persecution of Saddam Hussein, and your courageous leadership. And I look forward to continuing our discussion. Thank you.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks to the Press by the Vice President with President of the Kurdistan Regional Government Massoud Barzani in Irbil, Iraq Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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