Italy's General Chief of Defence Staff Claudio Graziano meets with Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani in Erbil. Photo: KRG
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani discussed strong coordination between the Peshmerga forces and Italian military personnel in Iraq in a meeting with the Italy's General Chief of Defence Staff Claudio Graziano and his accompanying delegation in Erbil, according to a statement from the PM’s office.
The meeting’s readout said Barzani and Graziano emphasized the need to maintain aid to the fighting Peshmerga forces and hailed past arms supply from Rome to Erbil.
It added that Graziano expressed his happiness over the strengthening of coordination between the Peshmerga and Italian soldiers especially at Mosul Dam as an Italian force there escort out a company from Italy tasked with mending the fragile Iraqi dam.
A member of Italy's mechanized infantry the Bersaglieri stands watch over the Mosul Dam. Photo: Italy MoD
The Mosul Dam is being renovated and restored by an Italian company and paid for, $450 million, by the Iraqi government.
The dam briefly fell to ISIS in the summer of 2014 but was quickly taken back by Peshmerga forces with help from the coalition forces. The area is now protected by Italian forces.
There had been reports in May of an increased deployment of Italian forces to the dam. Brigadier General Hajar Ismail, the director of coordination and relations at the Kurdish Ministry of Peshmerga, told Rudaw English that the movements were a standard rotation.
Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi announced in December 2015 that Rome would dispatch 450 soldiers to protect the dam while it undergoes repairs.
There have long been fears that the dam would collapse and endanger the lives of millions of Iraqis due to its closeness to ISIS territory and the dam’s deteriorating structure.
According to the meeting readout with Barzani, other topics were also highlighted — notably the continued fight against ISIS in Mosul, Erbil Baghdad relations and a most recent Kurdish leadership’s decree on holding independence referendum set up for September 25.
The first European leader to visit Kurdistan in the beginning of the war against ISIS was Italy’s Matteo Renzi. The then-Italian prime minister visited Erbil on August 20, 2014, giving a confidence boost to the Kurds.
Italy is one of the active members of the US-led international coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. They have about 500 military personnel in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, where they train Iraqi and Peshmerga forces.