Obama, Iraq’s Maliki Discuss Peace in the Region

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Good afternoon, everybody. I am very pleased to welcome Prime Minister al Maliki back to Washington. We’ve just concluded a very productive discussion about a wide range of issues.

We meet at an important moment. Substantial progress has been made since Prime Minister Maliki’s first visit to Washington in 2006, and since the Prime Minister and I had a chance to sit down together in Baghdad. Violence continues to be down, and Iraqis are taking responsibility for their future. This progress has been made possible by the resilience of the Iraqi people and security forces, and also because of the extraordinary service of American troops and civilians in Iraq.

Now we’re in the midst of a full transition to Iraqi responsibility, and to a comprehensive partnership between the United States and Iraq based on mutual interests and mutual respect. The success of this transition is critically important to the security and prosperity of our people, and it is a top priority of my administration.

Recently, we took an important step forward by transferring control of all Iraqi cities and towns to Iraq’s security forces. This transition was part of our security agreement, and should send an unmistakable signal that we will keep our commitments with the sovereign Iraqi government. As I said before, we seek no bases in Iraq, nor do we make any claim on Iraq’s territory or resources.

Going forward, we will continue to provide training and support for Iraqi security forces that are capable and nonsectarian. We’ll move forward with our strategy to responsibly remove all American combat brigades from Iraq by the end of next August, and to fulfill our commitment to remove all American troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.

As we move forward, Prime Minister Maliki and I have no doubt that there will be some tough days ahead. There will be attacks on Iraqi security forces and the American troops supporting them. There are still those in Iraq who would murder innocent men, women and children. There are still those who want to foment sectarian conflict. But make no mistake: Those efforts will fail.

The Iraqi people have already rejected these forces of division and destruction. And American troops have the capability, the support and flexibility they need to stand with our Iraqi partners on behalf of a sovereign, secure, and self-reliant Iraq. Because we believe that the future does not belong to those who would destroy — it belongs to those who would build.

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