German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Kurdish President Masoud Barzani at a press conference in Erbil on Thursday. Photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — In a press conference with the visiting German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, Kurdish President Masoud Barzani thanked Germany for helping the Kurdistan Region during “hardship” as the region was fighting ISIS militants and struggling to take in 1.8 million refugees and internally-displaced persons (IDPs) through the economic crises over the past few years.
“On behalf of the Kurdistan nation and Peshmerga, I would like to thank Germany who reached out to us during the hardship when we faced ISIS. We also thank German officers who benefited the Peshmerga by training,” Barzani said, following his meeting with Gabriel.
For his part, Gabriel recommended that Kurdistan's sheltering of refugees be recognized.
“The Kurdistan Region has offered unprecedented assistance to the refugees. What Kurdistan has presented in the fight against ISIS and receiving refugees should be recognized,” Gabriel said in the press conference with the Kurdish president.
Discussing mechanisms to deal with the post-ISIS phase, Barzani said “the meeting was positive and friendly.”
Gabriel praised the Peshmerga as an effective force in defeating ISIS.
He said “the bravery of the Peshmerga” forced Germany to supply them with weapons, adding “Germany pays much tribute to the Peshmerga and Kurdish nation.”
Germany has been a main supplier of weapons to Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces since the start of the war against ISIS nearly three years ago, especially providing Milan anti-tank missiles which have proven effective against car bombs on the frontlines.
In the press conference, reporters raised the question of a referendum on independence for the Kurdistan Region.
“Those criticizing the referendum have not understood the situation well,” said Barzani, he did not provide further details as to who has criticized the process.
He went on to explain that “the decision on referendum has been made and parties have currently engaged to set up the timeframe and the next phases.”
The process of referendum will not take place in a violent way, but through dialogue in a "peaceful way" with Baghdad and other associated parties, Barzani added.
“They might not have understood the situations very well. Holding a referendum is intended to communicate the opinions of the entire Kurdistan nation to the world. This is a process for which we will be talking to other parties, especially Baghdad. This doesn’t mean we will immediately be adopting the path of violence. Rather, we will be choosing the path of peace and dialogue. Mutual understanding and reaching a result which the nation of Kurdistan approves will contribute further to the interests of the region. It will promote the interests of the Kurds, Arabs and other nations in the region further,” Barzani detailed.
Regarding Germany’s perspective on the referendum, “It is an internal matter as it is between Iraq and the Kurdistan Region,” Gabriel said. “This is something they decide on it.”
He added that what is really important for them — as they have told Baghdad and Erbil authorities — is “the stability of Iraq and the region.”
Gabriel arrived in Erbil on Wednesday, where he was received by Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani.
“I would like to thank you for the warm hospitality you showed to us with being open to the discussions we held together,” Gabriel said during Thursday’s press conference.
In Baghdad on Wednesday, Gabriel said his government would continue its support for Iraq, including humanitarian aid.