Deputy Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Qubad Talabani. Photo: Rudaw video
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Deputy Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region, in a tour of the Netherlands and Belgium, raised issues critical to the Kurdistan Region in a string of meetings with European leaders, including the planned referendum on independence.
Qubad Talabani met with the Netherlands' Foreign Affairs Minister Bert Koenders on Thursday. They discussed the fight against ISIS and his country's military assistance.
Following the meeting, Koenders told Rudaw that they would continue to support the Peshmerga and train them in the fight against the radical militants.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) delegation led by Talabani also met with the Netherlands' Finance and Development Minister, discussing the Region’s attempts toward grassroots reforms in all sectors.
On Wednesday, the KRG delegation met with and the country’s defense ministry.
“We talked about the fight against ISIS… because Holland is part of the fight supporting the Peshmerga. Their air force also supports the Peshmerga,” said Dilawar Azhgay, head of the KRG’s mission to the EU.
He added later they had discussed the KRG’s needs in the fight against ISIS as well as reforms the KRG is making within the Peshmerga Ministry.
The Netherlands was also asked to join the US, the UK, and Germany in helping to build the ministry.
Last month, Kurdistan’s Council of Ministers agreed to a proposal that seeks to unify and reorganize the Kurdish Peshmerga forces over the next ten years with assistance from the US, UK, and Germany.
Azhgay said they also asked the Netherlands to receive Peshmerga wounded in the fight against ISIS. Tens of Peshmerga need medical care that they cannot obtain in the Kurdistan Region.
“They said they will look into it and make a decision,” Azhgay said.
The KRG delegation also visited the International Criminal Court to discuss recognition of ISIS atrocities.
“Of course the subject will be the recognition of ISIS atrocities and how the ICC steps towards holding an international trial of those criminals who committed genocide against the Kurdistan nation, especially our Yezidi sisters and brothers, either inside the Kurdistan Region or abroad,” Azhgay explained.
According to Rudaw’s Alla Shali, Talabani also met with the Netherlands’ Development Finance Company to encourage the group’s companies to invest in the Region and help provide job opportunities for the people of Kurdistan.
The KRG delegation visited Belgium on Thursday where they met with Belgian and European Union officials.
In a meeting with the Middle East Cooperation and Development Committee in the European Union in Brussels, Talabani asked for more assistance and cooperation between European countries and Erbil as there are still a considerable number of refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) living in the Region who are in desperate need of aid.
Talabani in a meeting with Pierre Amilhat, Director of Development Coordination in the Middle East fort the European Commission’s International Cooperation and Development, stressed that European countries should increase their volume of coordination with Erbil as the Region is overwhelmed by the number of IDPs and refugees it is hosting.
Speaking to Rudaw following his meeting with Talabani, Amilhat thanked the Peshmerga and the Kurdish nation who fought ISIS on their behalf, militarily. He also hailed the Region’s durability in hosting a large number of refugees.
And in a meeting with Christos Stylianides, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Talabani addressed Kurdish aspirations for independence through a referendum set to take place on September 25, saying the Kurdistan nation, like others in the world, has the right to self-determination, according to an announcement released by the KRG website.
Talabani said their meeting with Stylianides and his team was friendly.
He said that history was now bearing witness that Kurds are a peaceful nation who only defend themselves and do not pose a threat to anyone’s rights, the announcement read.
On the fight against ISIS, Talabani said that territories ISIS had once controlled were reclaimed and in the near future the extremist group will be completely eradicated.
In the meeting with Stylianides, Talabani hinted at the KRG’s reform plans in all sectors, saying major reforms were needed in the government’s structures. The KRG has undertaken a series of reforms and austerity measures, such as efforts to cut down the government's bloated payroll.
The KRG deputy prime minister told Rudaw that they discussed the EU officials “Iraq’s political issues” and how the KRG has always wanted full implementation of the constitution.
“Referendum in itself is not an objective, but a long-term process, either leading us to independence or not. If we pay too much attention to the referendum, we might become distant from the main objective, and that objective is independence,” Talabani told Rudaw.
For his part, Stylianides praised the KRG’s continued efforts in taking in and helping refugees of war and pledged to continue their assistance to the KRG.
He also praised the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
During his tour, Talabani also met with officials from the Iraqi embassy in Belgium and the KRG’s representative to the EU.