Prime Minister Barzani with Pope Francis. AFP photo.
ROME, Italy - A high-level Kurdish delegation led by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani is in Rome today, where both governments have pledged to continue their fight against “terrorism” and expand diplomatic relations, a Kurdish government spokesman said.
Safeen Dizayee, spokesman of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), said that Italy has stressed its commitment to Erbil in its fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).
He added that, in a meeting with officials that included Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, both sides proposed the expansion of their trade mission in Erbil into a full consulate.
Following a meeting with his Italian counterpart, Prime Minister Barzani also met with Pope Francis at the Vatican, where they discussed the situation of more than 1.4 million refugees in the Kurdistan Region, many of them Christians from Mosul and the rest of Iraq.
Barzani said that Pope Francis has a deep understanding of the situation in Iraq and of refugees made homeless by the ISIS war, adding that the pontiff had expressed the Vatican’s support for the Kurdish government.
“He said he was grateful for all the support the people of Kurdistan have provided to the Christians, Yezidis, Arabs and all refugees,” Barzani told Rudaw in Rome.
Currently 50 Italian military advisors are in the Kurdistan Region, training Peshmerga forces on new tactics of war and anti-tank guns provided by the Italian military.
Italian PM Renzi was among the first European leaders to visit Erbil last August, shortly after the Kurdistan Region went into battle against ISIS on its borders.