US, Iraq to start new phase of ties

Updated: 2011-12-01 09:33


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US, Iraq to start new phase of ties

US Vice President Joe Biden (L) talks to Iraq's President Jalal Talabani during his visit to Baghdad November 30, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]

BAGHDAD - Iraq and the United States are working to start a new phase in their relationship as US Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Baghdad to discuss bilateral ties ahead of the complete pullout of US troops from the country by the end of this year.

Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki chaired the opening meeting of the US-Iraq Higher Coordination Committee (HCC) which includes senior officials of the two countries.

The HCC was formed earlier to activate the Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA) signed between Baghdad and Washington late in 2008 along with the security pact named Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), under which the United States would pull out all its troops from Iraq by December 31.

"Our troops are leaving Iraq, and we are starting a new path together, a new phase of this relationship between two sovereign nations," Biden said at the opening meeting of the HCC.

"This (new relationship) is marking a new beginning that will not only benefit the United States of America and Iraq. I believe it will benefit the region and will benefit the world," Biden said at the meeting with the presence of local and foreign media in the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad.

"We will continue to discuss with your government over the substance of our security arrangements, training, intelligence and counter-terrorism," Biden said.

"In one month, our troops will leave Iraq, but our close strategic partnership will, with God willing, continue," Biden added.

For his part, Maliki stressed that his country and the United States are looking forward to give such relationship a success, calling on the US companies to invest in Iraq.

"Today, we meet again in Baghdad to emphasize our commitment to this important partnership and our commitment to the principles of cooperation, sovereignty and mutual respect, as stipulated in the terms of the strategic partnership agreement," Maliki said.

"Three years ago the two countries signed a framework agreement of strategic partnership (SFA), which came as a confirmation that both sides wanted to establish cooperation and long-term friendship," Maliki said.

He also said that the two countries have entered a new phase in their relationship and they have "historic opportunity to strengthen ties in areas beyond the security area to include fields of economy, education, culture, justice, environment, energy."

"We are establishing a state that would not interfere in others ' affairs, and would not allow interference in our affairs. Our goal is that Iraq be a brother, friend and supporter to all countries in the region who are partners and friends to Iraq," Maliki said.

Biden arrived in Baghdad late on Tuesday on a surprise visit with the aim of meeting with top Iraqi officials to discuss the US troop withdrawal and relations between the two countries after the pullout of US troops by the end of this year.

The US Vice President is due to meet with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and the parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi.

Hundreds of people loyal to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al- Sadr protested Biden's visit in demonstrations in Baghdad Shiite bastion of Sadr City district and southern Shiite cities of Basra and Najaf.

"We condemn the unannounced visit of Vice President Joe Biden, and we consider it interference in Iraq's affairs," Salah al- Obiedi, spokesman of Sadr office in Najaf said in a statement.  

On October 21, US President Barack Obama announced that all US troops stationed in Iraq will be pulled out from the country by the end of this year and hence end the Iraq War.