EU officials visit Iraqi Kurdistan, express concerns about governance in ISIS-free areas

Foreign Ministers of the Benelux and the Kurdistan Region's FM speaking to a press conference in Erbil. Photo: ARA News

ARA News

Erbil – Foreign Ministers of the Benelux on Monday visited the Kurdistan Region after visiting Baghdad. The European officials stressed the importance to find a solution for governing the areas recaptured from ISIS once the extremist group is defeated in Mosul. In a press conference in Erbil, the European FMs also praised the Kurdish forces and their fight against ISIS.

“We are here to express our solidarity with Kurdistan for its fight against Daesh [ISIS]. We are very impressed by the Peshmerga and their fight against Daesh, and we continue to support such a fight,” said Didier Reynders, the Foreign Minister of Belgium.

But he said there is also a need for stabilization after ISIS. “Not only for Mosul, which will be hopefully liberated in the next few weeks, but also in the future for the rest of Iraq. It’s important to have a balanced relationship between all communities,” Reynders said.

In the meantime, Nechirvan Barzani, Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region, said: “I thank them [Benelux FMs] for supporting the US and Peshmerga forces, and providing us with humanitarian aid, and also for their support to what we are doing in the Kurdistan Region.”

The Dutch FM Bert Koenders in his statement also focused on post-ISIS governance, rehabilitation and stabilization, beside praising the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

“It’s important to discuss the issue of governance within Iraq and all these areas and include discussions with your government to start rather yesterday than tomorrow, he said. “To assure peace we have to start serious discussions [about governing] especially in Mosul and areas surrounding Mosul,” the Dutch FM Bert Koenders told a press conference in Erbil on Monday.

Koenders also praised the good relations between the Kurdish autonomous region and the Netherlands. “We will continue the support for security in this region especially in the terms of training (…) for the Peshmerga forces and I was very impressed by the work of the Peshmerga in this very tough battle for Mosul,” he said.

While visiting Dutch soldiers at the international camp for coalition forces, the Dutch FM praised them for their work. “Everybody, without exception, was making a strong point about the training you are doing. There is great praise from Dutch parliament and government, but more importantly, people here say it makes a great difference,” he said.

So far, the Dutch training mission have trained over 4,500 Kurdish Peshmerga forces over the last two years.

“The best possible way to defeat Daesh [ISIS] in this culturally and historically rich country, is to live in unity and in respect of differences, and be united in differences,” Jean Asselborn, the Foreign Minister of Luxembourg said.

“We talked about low oil price, fight against Daesh, huge number of refugees and budget cuts, and we understand that Kurdistan needs the access to finances in the world market for the future of this very important region,” he said.

The Luxembourg FM said the European Union will also support the Kurdistan Regional Government’s [KRG] efforts to host thousands of Syrian refugees and IDPs from Mosul. The KRG has asked for more international aid to support the thousands of IDPs that are being hosted in the Kurdistan Region.

The Foreign Ministers from Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxemburg arrived on Sunday and visited the Dutch army, refugee camps including the Hasansham Camp near Mosul, and were received by Kurdish officials in the office of the Kurdistan Region’s Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani.

While visiting the refugee camps, they were briefed by analysts from the think tank MERI, while IDPs could be seen in the camps complaining about the bad winter conditions and rain. IDPs asked the ministers and visiting journalists for more support.

“We saw thousands of people accepted in this country here,” Jean Asselborn said in reference to their visit to the refugee camps in Khazir and Hasansham. “We in European Union support this effort, and refugees in the KRG, 250,000 refugees from Syria, 50 per cent of all IDPs [in Iraq], and 90 per cent of Syria refugees from Iraq are here in this region,” he concluded.

Foreign Ministers of the Benelux meet the Kurdistan Region’s FM Nichirvan Barzani in Erbil. Photo: ARA News

Foreign Ministers of the Benelux visit a refugee camp in Iraqi Kurdistan. Photo: ARA News

Reporting by: WLaidmir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News 

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