WASHINGTON, July 18 (UPI) -- The U.S. government said it welcomes Iraq's efforts to find a political solution to ongoing conflict but is concerned by the overall level of violence.
U.S. combat forces left Iraq in December 2011 under the terms of a bilateral strategic forces agreement. Since their departure, violence in Iraq has reached a point not seen since the country teetered on the brink of civil war in 2007.
U.N. special envoy to Iraq Martin Kobler told the Security Council this week "fear, frustration [and] helplessness" were the overriding sentiments expressed by those Iraqis who grew up under the shadow of war.
Marie Harf, deputy spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said the government was "deeply concerned" by the rise of violence in Iraq and its potential consequences for civil war in neighboring Syria.
Al-Qaida elements from Iraq are fighting alongside anti-government forces in the Syrian war. Harf said Wednesday there was an overwhelming sentiment from Iraqi leaders of the need to find political solutions to internal crises.
Kobler said he welcomed efforts by Iraqi political leaders to sit down at the negotiating table to resolve their differences. Some of the violence is Iraq is pitted along sectarian lines.
"We are encouraged that many political and religious leaders have taken a strong stance against this violence, and that we have continued to explore ways to address these ongoing security issues going forward," Harf said during a press conference.