German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen meets Barzani. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Visiting German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen praised the growing “trust” between Germany and Kurdistan, following a meeting with Kurdish President Masoud Barzani.
“In one year, the trust between two sides has grown dramatically. We have reached a point where we can depend on each other,” said Von der Leyen, whose country has been the staunchest Western backer of the Peshmerga, providing both arms and training to Kurdish fighters.
“Any military aid to Peshmerga is a support to Iraq as well,” Von der Leyen added, indirectly noting a standing objection from Baghdad for direct military dealings with Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
The minister said that 4,700 Peshmerga have been trained by German trainers, and promised to send 2,000 masks and 3,000 articles of military clothing for the Peshmerga.
The world needs to stand with the Peshmerga in the war against the Islamic State group (ISIS), the minister said in comments earlier Tuesday.
“The whole world should support the Peshmerga in their fight against ISIS,” Von der Leyen said on a visit to a training camp of the Kurdish elite Zerevani forces, which are under the supervision of the German military.
She was greeted by Peshmerga and German trainers.
The German minister said she was impressed with the level of progress achieved since her visit to the camp eight months ago. This is her third visit to Kurdistan since becoming the first female defense minister in German history.
“I want to thank the soldiers and especially the females who are training the Peshmerga fighters. I believe it is a very important duty,” der Leyen said in a brief speech.
“I have respect for the Peshmerga fighters who are here. They are receiving military training for five weeks and after they finish they go to the battlefield. This matter is related to the life of people. They try to protect their own lives and the lives of other people,” she added.
“You are not only fighting for yourself, you are fighting instead for all of us,” the minister declared.
Kurdish interior minister Karim Sinjari welcomed Von der Leyen to the camp.
“Germany and Germans have supported the Kurdistan region government and Kurdish people,” Sinjari said.
“I would like to thank all German soldiers who are training the Peshmerga fighters. The training will help to launch massive operations and protect your own lives,” he said.
Germany has been one of the main providers of anti-tank missiles to the Peshmerga.
Rudaw has learned that Germany has handed over military aid worth $77 million to the Kurdistan region, including 30 MILAN missile launchers with 500 missiles.
The first plane carrying high-tech German weapons arrived in Erbil on September 25, 2014, following Von der Leyen’s first visit.