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Top Iraqi Kurdistan Leader Urges China to Intensify Role in Middle East

Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani came under growing opposition from his detractors after he organised the September 25 referendum on Kurdish independence that triggered a deep crisis with Baghdad
AFP/File SAFIN HAMED

The chancellor of northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has reportedly called on U.S. rival China to “play a greater role” in bringing stability to the Middle East.

“Chancellor [Masoud] Barzani expressed his hope that China would play a greater role to help address deep-rooted problems and deliver more stability in the Middle East,” declared the press office of the Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC).

Barzani’s remarks came while he was meeting with a delegation led by the Chinese Ambassador to Iraq, Chen Weiqing, in Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital of Erbil.

China is already seeking deeper cooperation with anti-KRG independence Iran as part of Beijing’s efforts to enhance its military posture in the Middle East, U.S. Gen. Joseph Votel, the top American commander in the region, recently cautioned lawmakers.

In late February, Gen. Votel told a House panel:

Both China and Russia seek to fill in perceived gaps in U.S. interest by increasing defense cooperation and sales of their equipment to our regional partners. They both are also cultivating multidimensional ties to Iran … China also seeks to increase its economic and diplomatic cooperation with Iran.

Iran came out against the KRG’s independence efforts last year, providing military support to help Baghdad pressure the Kurds into dropping their ongoing dream of becoming an independent state.

The United States also urged the KRG to abandon its independence objectives after an overwhelming majority of Kurds voted in favor of establishing a sovereign state.

Kurdistan 24 reports:

At the meeting, [the Chinese delegation and the KRG chancellor] discussed recent developments and measures to advance bilateral ties between Erbil and Beijing. Weiqing recognized the importance of the Kurdistan Region in ongoing stability and counter-terrorism efforts in the Middle East, according to the KRSC account of the discussion. … They also expressed their commitment to expanding cooperation between the two sides, including economic and trade relations.

China erected its Consulate General in the KRG back in December 2014. The U.S. military repeatedly describes China and Iran as American rivals.

According to the latest Global Firepower (GFP) index, which ranks the military strength of 133 countries annually, the United States is closely trailed by Russia, China, and India, respectively.

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