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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright,
Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and Massoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)
Press remarks following their meeting
Washington, D.C., September 17, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I am very pleased to welcome to the State Department today two leaders of the Iraqi Kurdish people: Mr. Barzani of the Kurdish Democratic Party, and Mr. Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. As they will indicate shortly, their joint meetings here this week have opened a new and hopeful chapter in their efforts to work together on behalf of their people. Our sessions here follow six months of working-level talks between the two parties in northern Iraq and recent consultations by each in Ankara and London.

We welcome today's step forward. The United States has deep concern for the safety, security and economic well being of the Iraqi Kurds -- Shi'as, Sunnis, and others -- who have been subject to brutal attacks by the regime in Baghdad, including the Anfal attacks in 1988 and the military campaigns in 1991. With others in the international community we have sought to protect Iraqis from the repression of Saddam Hussein and to address their humanitarian concerns. At the Security Council in New York we have reminded our colleagues that the purpose of Council Resolutions, particularly Resolution 688, is not restricted to Iraqi weapons programs, but extends as well to the safety and protection of the Iraqi populations in both the north and the south. All this is fully consistent with our commitment to the territorial integrity and sovereign unity of Iraq.

The renewed spirit of reconciliation between Mr. Barzani and Mr. Talabani, exemplified by their joint meeting and joint statement today, will make it easier for the United States and others to help their people. They have set a timetable for resolving their differences fully consistent with the principles laid down in the 1996 Ankara Accords. We encourage them and will help where we can to see that this agenda is met. Without unity, the road ahead will remain very difficult. With unity, there is every reason for the Iraqi Kurds to look forward with hope.

As we meet, Iraq is threatening once again to end all cooperation with UN weapons inspectors, this time in response to a Council decision to suspend periodic reviews of Iraqi compliance with UN Resolutions which responded in turn to Iraq's totally unacceptable decision in August to halt cooperation with UNSCOM disarmament work. It is vital that the Security Council respond in a firm and principled way to Iraq's provocative and self-defeating acts. The Council cannot allow Iraq to gain by starting yet another cycle of defiance and threats. Its credibility and effectiveness are on the line. It, the Security Council, must insist that Iraq comply with all relevant Council Resolutions.

The United States will decide how and when to respond to Baghdad's actions based on the threat they pose to Iraq's neighbors, to regional security, to vital U.S. interests, and to the Iraqi people, including those in the north. We have not taken any option off the table. If Iraq tries to break out of its strategic box, our response will be strong and sure. But we will act on our own timetable, not Saddam Hussein's.

The United States looks forward to the day when Iraq can rejoin the family of nations as a responsible and law-abiding member. To those Iraqis inside and outside the country who want to build a democratic future for their nation, I say: the United States is on your side.

The new Radio Free Iraq is preparing to broadcast directly to the Iraqi people. We are gathering information regarding the atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein to help the Iraqi exile community in its campaign to bring him to justice. And, as today's meeting reflects, we are intensifying our efforts to help Iraqis whether Arab or Kurd, Shiite or Sunni to develop a deeper sense of common purpose and a more effective strategy for achieving their future in a democratic and pluralist Iraq.

Obviously, these measures are no panacea. It would not be responsible to raise false hopes or expectations. But neither can we turn our backs on the Iraqi people who have for too long been denied the freedom, security and chance for prosperity they deserve. There can be no more Anfals, no more campaigns to eradicate whole populations of innocent men, women and children.

I welcome Mr. Talabani and Mr. Barzani and congratulate them for the courageous steps they are taking; and on behalf of the United States, I look forward to working with them further to promote the humanitarian condition, human rights and safety of their people.

MR. MASSOUD BARZANI: (Through translator) First, I would like to thank Secretary Albright and the Government of the United States of America for their interest in the concerns and issues of our people and for fostering our reconciliation and for hosting us here.

We have accomplished something important in the last few days. With God's help, we must implement what we have agreed to, and we must implement those things carefully and accurately. The basis for that will be the good intentions and the support of our friends. Our people are looking forward to the results of these talks. What we have accomplished will ensure a prosperous future for our people.

Here I would like to affirm our concern and interest for the unity of Iraq. What we have done is not against the interests of any country in the region, but what we have done is to solve the existing problems.

Once again, thank you very much, Madam Secretary.

MR. JALAL TALABANI: It is a historic day. We closed a sad chapter of the history of the Kurdish people, who suffered too much in their history. It is a new day, and I hope that it will be a day that we both, Mr. Barzani and myself, and our two parties, the PUK and KDP, will do their best to implement this historic accord which we have achieved with the support of our American friends, especially Secretary Albright, whom we are very much grateful to her to her personal contribution, to her personal encouragement and advice to us, and to our friends. Among them I want to mention the important role of our friend David Welch, who took the risk of visiting us in Iraqi Kurdistan and preparing for this meeting here, and of course for all other friends here in the State Department, in the White House, and everywhere, who supported us in achieving this historic and important achievement.

Our people are looking forward to having a united, democratic, federative Iraq. It is an opportunity for us to assure that we are not a separatist force; we are for strengthening the national unity of Iraq. We are not working with any states in the area. On the contrary, (inaudible) will have to have peace and stability in the area which help all neighbors of Iraq.

We are for better relations with the United States of America. The Kurdish people will never forget that the United States of America and the Secretary of State, friends from the State Department and from other Departments that helped us reach this important accord. We will remain as a Kurdish faithful nation grateful to them. I hope it will help to strengthen relations between American people and Iraqi people, Kurdish people included.

Again, I express my appreciation and gratitude to Madam Albright and to other friends in the State Department. Thank you very much (applause).

[End of Document]

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