Visit to northern Iraq: Baerbock pledges reconstruction aid to the Kurds

Status: 08.03.2023 2:17 p.m

After the military victory over “Islamic State,” a good million internally displaced persons are still living in Iraq. At a meeting with the head of government of the Kurdish autonomous regions, Baerbock warned of a return with dignity.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock has promised the Iraqi Kurds broad support for the reintegration of around one million internally displaced persons after the military victory over the terrorist militia “Islamic State” (IS).

“No one wants to live in a camp all their lives,” said the Greens politician after a meeting with the prime minister of the Kurdish autonomous regions in northern Iraq, Masrur Barsani, in the Kurdish capital Erbil.

Barsani criticizes PKK rebels

Baerbock added: “That’s why it’s important for us that people can return to their homeland” and that they could lead a life in dignity there. According to an official translation, Barzani said his government hopes to hold regional elections, which were postponed last year, by the end of 2023.

At the same time, he criticized any violation of the sovereignty of Iraq and the Kurdistan region, “regardless of which side”. He strongly condemned Iran’s drone and missile attacks. Barsani also criticized the Kurdish workers’ party PKK, which operates in northern Iraq and is banned in Turkey, and contributed to attacks from Turkey and to destabilization.

Baerbock criticized the fact that internal and external forces in Iraq were “trying to split and thus destabilize and thereby thwart social and economic development”. “It is all the more important that all the forces that stand for security work together,” appealed the Foreign Minister.

IS still active in the region

Turkey regularly takes action against offshoots of the PKK in northern Iraq. The PKK also attacks people there who they don’t think are cooperating. It is also considered a terrorist organization in the US and Europe. The headquarters of the PKK is in the inaccessible Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq. According to Kurdish sources, three people were killed in a Turkish drone attack in northern Iraq at the end of February.

In addition, the region is still suffering from the “Islamic State”. A few years ago, the terrorist militia controlled large areas in Iraq and Syria. When the jihadists overran the region around the Sinjar mountains in northern Iraq in 2014, they killed and abducted thousands of people. Many women were enslaved and raped. The jihadists have been considered militarily defeated since 2017, but IS cells continue to carry out attacks.

The security forces are still under great pressure to “keep this terrorist threat in check,” said Baerbock. Above all, Germany is making a security contribution in this field.

Visit to refugee camp

In the afternoon, the minister plans to visit the Qadiya refugee camp in Dohuk province near the Turkish border. More than 12,000 internally displaced persons live there. Most of the people are Yazidis from the Sinjar region who were expelled by IS between 2014 and 2017.

In the camp, Baerbock also wants to find out about a women’s project. Later, a visit to a center is planned, in which IS crimes are to be documented in a court-proof manner. The program also included a visit to an orphan school, where more than 400 children are taught.

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