U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Iranian Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qumi met Monday in the Green Zone in Baghdad for four hours — a rare meeting between high-ranking officials from the two nations. Following the session, at a news conference, Crocker characterized the talks as "business-like." Here are some highlights of his comments:
"The Iranians as well as ourselves laid out the principles that guide our respective policies toward Iraq. There was pretty good congruence right down the line — support for a secure, stable, democratic, federal Iraq, in control of its own security, at peace with its neighbors."
"We both laid out our support for the (government) of — [Iraqi] Prime Minister Maliki — as he undertakes a number of very difficult challenges and we all agreed — Iraqis, Americans, and Iranians, that the focus of our discussions was on Iraq and Iraq only and how we might support as effectively as possible Iraq, it's people and it's government in restoring security and stability to the country and furthering a political reconciliation process."
"We also made it clear from the American point of view that this is about actions not just principles and I laid out before the Iranians a number of our direct specific concerns about their behavior in Iraq, their support for militias that are fighting both the Iraqi security forces and coalition forces."
"(The Iranians) made the assertion that the Coalition presence was an occupation and that the effort to train and equip the Iraqi security forces had been inadequate to the challenges faced. We of course responded on both points, making clear that coalition forces are here at the Iraqi government's invitation and under security council authorities and that we have put literally billions of dollars into training and equipping an increasingly capable set of Iraqi security forces."
"They — the Iranians — did propose a trilateral mechanism to coordinate on security matters. That of course would be a decision for Washington. The point that I made in the meeting is that the purpose of the meeting was not to discuss further meetings. It was to layout concrete concerns as we did and our expectation that action would be taken on them."
"The Iraqi government said it would extend an invitation in the period ahead for another meeting. We'll obviously consider that invitation when we receive it. With respect to, again, the substance of the exchange — the Iranian side did not respond in detail to the points I laid out nor did they have specific issues to put on the table themselves beyond those that I mentioned and which we dealt with in the discussion concerning the status of Coalition Forces and our efforts at training and equipping Iraqi security forces. Their main focus was on mechanisms — if you will — and principles rather than the detailed security substance that we need to see improvement in the future for the sake of Iraq, its government and its people."