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Open to engaging Iran on Iraq, says White House

PTI 19 Jun 2014, 13:14:01 IST
Washington: The Obama Administration is open to engaging Iran on the current Iraq issue but the engagements will not include discussion of military coordination or strategic determination about the war-torn country's future, the White House said.

"We are open to engaging the Iranians, just as we are engaging other regional players on the threat posed by ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) in Iraq," White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney told reporters.

The issue of Iran came up briefly between the Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and Iran on the margins of the P5Ư in Vienna on Monday, he said.

"There may be future discussions at lower levels though we do not expect the issue to be raised again during this round of P5Ư nuclear discussions in Vienna. And to be clear, any discussion about Iraq is separate and will be separate from ongoing nuclear talks," Carney said.

"In any possible conversations with Iran we would encourage the Islamic Republic of Iran to act in a responsible, non-sectarian way, and to encourage the government or Iraq and all Iraqi leaders to do the same," he said.

Iraq's sovereignty must be respected, and the government of Iraq must focus now on strengthening its internal political and security institutions in a non-sectarian way, Carney added.

"The solution to Iraq's security challenge does not involve militias, but the strengthening of the Iraqi forces to combat threats. Any engagements we have with the Iranians will not include discussion of military coordination or strategic determination about Iraq's future over the heads of the Iraqi people," Carney said.

ISIL, he said, is clearly a common threat to the entire region, including Iran, but Iraq will only successfully overcome this threat by governing in a non-sectarian manner, building and investing in the capacity of Iraq's security forces and addressing the legitimate concerns of Iraq's Sunni, Kurd and Shia communities.

"Turning to Iran is not going to accomplish these important steps and it won't solve Iraq's problems," he said.

State Department Spokesperson, Jen Psaki, said any discussion with Iran regarding Iraq would be entirely separate from the P5Ư negotiations, and any effort to connect the two is a non-starter for the US.

"There's no plans to have further conversations about Iraq at the P5Ư negotiations," she said.

"We are open to engagement or discussions on these issues," Psaki said.