The president of Iraqi Kurdistan complained on Friday about being excluded from a meeting in London this week of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), saying Kurdish fighters deserved more respect.
Masoud Barzani issued a statement saying it was “disheartening” that no Kurdish representative was invited to the meeting, where Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi called for greater military support.
“We were expecting everyone to show respect to the sacrifices made by the people of Kurdistan and its Peshmerga [fighters] by inviting a representative from Kurdistan to this event and similar such events,” Barzani said.
His comments followed criticisms earlier this month from Iraq’s prime minister and parliament speaker about the pace of the coalition’s efforts, which U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel rejected as “unhelpful.”
Washington is struggling to balance its support for the central government in Baghdad and Iraq’s Kurds, who have their own nationalist ambitions.
After ISIS early overran Kurdistan’s capital Erbil in August, Kurdish officials made common cause with Iraq’s new Prime Minister Abadi. Aided by U.S.-led air strikes, the Peshmerga have taken back most of the lost ground and this week broke a key Islamic State supply line.
ISIS still holds large stretches of Sunni territories in northern and western Iraq, most of which it grabbed last June after it overwhelmed the national Iraqi army.