WASHINGTON, March 18 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Monday talked with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi over phone regarding security and economic issues.
According to a statement issued by the White House, Pence and Abdul Mahdi "discussed opportunities to advance the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Iraq, including continuing to work together to strengthen and professionalize Iraq's Security Forces and grow Iraq's economy."
Pence "welcomed news of Iraq's recent economic and trade agreements with Jordan and the Prime Minister's upcoming travel as major steps towards Iraq's reintegration in the region after the territorial defeat of ISIS," the statement read, referring to the Islamic State (IS).
For his part, Abdul Mahdi updated Pence on the Iraqi government's efforts "to exhume the mass graves of ISIS's genocide against Yazidis in Sinjar" and added that "he would personally investigate security and economic impediments" noted by Pence as preventing the return of many of Iraq's religious components and other displaced persons.
The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said last week that a UN team tasked with investigation in crimes committed by the IS group will assist the Iraqi authorities in exhuming mass graves in Iraq's northern province of Nineveh, where the IS has killed hundreds of Yazidis in 2014.
Yazidis are a group of people indigenous to northern Iraq. Some of them identify themselves as ethnic Kurds, but most of them identify themselves as a distinct ethno-religious group. Hundreds of local Yazidi villagers were reportedly murdered by the IS fighters in August, 2014, while more than 700 women and children were abducted.