Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and KRG PM Nechirvan Barzani pose with Dutch troops at Erbil airport in 2016. Photo Judit Neurink/Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte met in The Hague on Tuesday.
“We thanked Holland in the meeting for all the aid it offered in the fight against ISIS and assistance for the Peshmerga and we also appreciated their role in helping those displaced from Syria and others who from Iraq to the Kurdistan Region,” Barzani said in brief comments to the media after their meeting.
“We also emphasized improving our relations in a variety of fields, such as the economy,” he added.
Immigration, the fight against ISIS and broader security and stability, and cooperation between their governments, particularly in the agricultural sector, were on the agenda to be discussed, according to an earlier statement from Rutte’s office.
KRG PM Nechirvan Barzani arriving at the office of Dutch PM Mark Rutte.
“The Netherlands has had strong ties with the Kurds through NGOs and aid organizations. They’ve maintained friendly and humanitarian relations with us. They had troops in Kurdistan in 1991, then in the operation Iraq freedom and in the war against ISIS. They’ve offered the Peshmerga great and substantial help,” Safeen Dizayee, chief of staff to Barzani, told Rudaw ahead of the meeting.
He noted that Rutte himself has visited the Kurdistan Region.
“We’re for strong diplomatic and economic ties with the Netherlands and this is the first time I must say that the KRG PM is formally invited to visit the Netherlands,” Dizayee said.
Despite its small geographical size, the Netherlands is the second largest exporter of agricultural products, after the United States. It is a global leader in the field of sustainable agriculture – reducing water dependency and cutting back on the use of pesticides and antibiotics.
Dutch Consul to the Kurdistan Region Janet Alberda told Rudaw in an interview earlier this year that Iraq is a “priority country” for her government and they envision sharing their agricultural expertise with Kurdistan and Iraq.
Barzani tweeted his appreciation to the Netherlands and to his Dutch counterpart, especially for the militaristic contributions in the fight against "terrorists."
The Netherlands is a member of the US-led global coalition.
Barzani's visit comes a day after he attended the inauguration of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of Turkey, in Ankara.
“The visit was highly important and would mean a whole new chapter in Erbil-Turkey relations,” said Dizayee.
“Despite what the Kurdistan Region went through last year it’s now regained its regional and international status. And we see Iraqi political delegations visiting Erbil regularly and that’s because the Kurdistan Region will have a major role in the formation of Iraq’s new government,” he continued.
Noting that Barzani has also met with the leaders of France, Germany, and Russia in recent months, Dizayee said the Kurdistan Region is out from the diplomatic cold it had been in after the independence referendum.
“The Kurdistan Region is still strong today and will try to regain the same diplomatic status it once had.”
Updated at 4:20 pm