German military trainers take Peshmerga forces through urban warfare tactics in Erbil. File photo: Farzin Hasan/Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Germany’s outgoing foreign minister appealed to his country’s parliament on Tuesday to extend its mission training the Peshmerga, arguing that international presence in the country would help prevent a civil war.
“The more international groups are active there, the lower the chance of a new escalation,” Sigmar Gabriel told reporters, according to Reuters. “A withdrawal would be the wrong signal to the parties to the conflict, as if we were resigned to accepting the danger of a new civil war.”
About 130 German soldiers are based at the international anti-ISIS Combined Joint Operations Command Center, where they have worked with Iraqi and Kurdish commanders, in addition to Peshmerga units through the Kurdistan Training Coordination Center (KTTC).
German lawmakers last month agreed on a short-term extension of their deployment pending the formation of a new government after elections. The parliament must renew troop deployments annually.
Gabriel’s Social Democratic party suffered heavy losses in the September vote and he will be stepping down from his post.
He said he remained hopeful that a “fragile ceasefire” between Kurdish and Iraqi forces will hold and political solution can be found.
“A new civil war in Iraq would bring unbelievable suffering to this country, which has already suffered too much as a result of political conflicts in recent years.”
Kurdish and Iraqi military leaders are engaged in talks after clashes between them following Kurdistan’s independence referendum and Iraq’s retaking of disputed areas.
Talks have recently snagged as the Kurds claim the Iraqis are refusing to budge from their hardline stance.
No political talks have yet taken place, despite repeated calls from the Kurdish leadership and the international community.