On the second day of his trip to Iraq, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier held talks in Erbil, the capital of the Region of Kurdistan-Iraq. In conversation with Masoud Barzani, President of the Region of Kurdistan-Iraq, Steinmeier reaffirmed German support for the Peshmerga in the fight against ISIS. At the same time, he stressed that an overall political strategy for combating the Islamists was needed.
Foreign Minister Steinmeier held talks with the central Government in Baghdad on Monday (7 December), having travelled to Iraq overnight. The trip focused on Germany’s support for the efforts to bring stability to the country. On Tuesday (8 December), the Minister travelled on to Erbil, in the north of the country. Here, too, the focus was on continued German support for the efforts to bring stability to liberated areas which had previously been controlled by the terrorist group ISIS.
In Erbil, Steinmeier held intensive talks with the President of the Region of Kurdistan-Iraq, Masoud Barzani, and the Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani. Both sides expressed their appreciation of the good bilateral cooperation to date. Key points discussed included the political situation and the fight against ISIS. This is Foreign Minister Steinmeier’s third visit to Erbil, the capital of the Region of Kurdistan-Iraq. He was last in the north of the country in the summer of 2014. At that time, ISIS militia had already driven out, threatened or killed many thousands of people from the Sinjar mountains. Germany’s response was to provide humanitarian support and to contribute weapons to the Kurdish Peshmerga units.
Military support as part of an overall political strategy
Following the political talks, Steinmeier reaffirmed Germany’s cooperation with the regional Government. At the same time, he stressed that, in order to be successful, necessary military action had to be embedded “in a broader overall political strategy”. A dual strategy was needed, he continued: with regard to the liberated areas, measures needed to be taken to show the people “that it is possible and desirable to return to their towns and villages”. As well as improving the security environment and helping to disable landmines, the Federal Government also wants to help create better living conditions, so will be providing five mobile clinics to ensure basic medical care.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Steinmeier also visited Baharka refugee camp, north of Erbil, and the UNICEF-run school for refugee children there. The camp was initially a reception centre for refugees from Syria, but it is now a UNHCR-supported centre for internally displaced persons. While at the camp, Steinmeier spoke with some of the families who fled from Mossul and other areas about a year and a half ago, as well as with representatives of UNHCR and the Federal Agency for Technical Relief.
The final station on his visit to northern Iraq was the multinational Camp Erbil, where Kurdish Peshmerga units receive training from the Bundeswehr and learn to handle German weapons. Foreign Minister Steinmeier thanked the German soldiers for their commitment in training the Kurdish fighters, saying their engagement was an important contribution to the fight against the Islamist terror of ISIS.