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Middle East

Dutch trade minister announces rehabilitation assistance in Iraq, Jordan

By Rudaw 29/6/2018
Sigrid Kaag, the Netherlands' Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, meets with Dutch forces at the Combined Joint Operations Center in Erbil on June 26, 2018. Photo: Sigrid Kaag Twitter
Sigrid Kaag, the Netherlands' Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, meets with Dutch forces at the Combined Joint Operations Center in Erbil on June 26, 2018. Photo: Sigrid Kaag Twitter
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Following a recent visit to Iraq, the Kurdistan Region and Jordan, Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development announced a series of rehabilitation plans to rebuild war-ravaged Mosul, continued Peshmerga anti-ISIS training in Erbil, and continued aid programs that will help improve the livelihood of IDPs and Syrian refugees.

“It is of the utmost importance to restore or strengthen stability here and in other places destroyed by ISIS,' Kaag said in a press release by The Netherlands government on Thursday. “Giving people the prospect of a brighter future is essential because their property and livelihoods lie in ruins."

Kaag said the Dutch government pledged a donation of 20 million euros ($23 million) to help in rebuilding Mosul post-ISIS as well as continued training of Peshmerga forces.

The donation also includes reestablishing electricity and water supplies, schools and other basic services.

The monies were donated directly to the UNDP Funding Facility for Stabilization to help carry out rehabilitation process in areas of the greatest need within Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.

The Netherlands government previously released 37 million euros ($43 million USD) to help returnees to Mosul rebuild their lives. A portion of those funds went towards paying salaries to people to clear rubble in badly damaged areas of the city which was liberated from ISIS last summer.

In her visit to Baghdad, Kaag met with Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al Abadi and other ministers along with human rights activists.

She stressed the importance of economic reform in the war-torn country in addition to respect for human rights.

The Dutch minister also signed a letter of intent between the Dutch development bank, FMO, and Vitas Iraq to work in securing job sources and income for young people working in new enterprises. The two parties will work together for increasing microfinancing options for entrepreneurs in Iraq.

FMO had halted services in Iraq, but is returning to be a part of the country's rehabilitation process after a nine year absence.

The Netherlands is also active in providing bespoke and educational training in addition to coaching courses at The Station, a training incubator in Baghdad working in collaboration with the Dutch government for the training of 30 young entrepreneurs.

Kaag's final visit in Iraq was Camp Stephan in Erbil, capital of the Kurdistan Region, where Dutch forces are stationed.

The Dutch military is a part of the Capacity Building Mission Iraq (CBMI) which is responsible for anti-ISIS training for Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi special units.

“You are carrying out a vital task that is contributing to peace, security, stability and the prospects that are so badly needed here,” Kaag said of the anti-ISIS training.

In addition to her four-day visit which included Mosul and Baghdad in Iraq and Erbil in the Kurdistan Region, Kaag also visited Jordan and the al-Zaatari refugee camp, home to some 80,000 Syrian refugees.

She named both Iraq and Jordan as focus countries in a recent policy document for investments and said the Dutch government will "maintain a special relationship with both countries."

“The war in Syria and the fight against ISIS have had a devastating impact here,” Kaag said. “That's why we're working on humanitarian aid and reception in the region in combination with economic strengthening to create more growth and jobs for both the local population and refugees.”

With Jordan receiving such a large number of Syrian refugees since conflicts began in 2011 and the rise of ISIS in 2014, Kaag said it is difficult for the country to satisfy the "enormous demand for jobs, education and other services by itself."

"It deserves the support of the international community," she added. "And the Netherlands won't be slow to help." 

Although specific plans for future rehabilitation projects within Jordan or financial assistance for the country were not mentioned in the press release, Kaag did meet with refugees at a women's center at al Zaatari camp that was built by the Dutch government as well as agricultural businesses supported by aid received from the Netherlands.

The conflict in Syria began after mass protests in March 2011 erupted into a civil war between pro-Syrian regime forces and rebel factions.

The rise of ISIS across Iraq and Syria in 2014 further complicated the situation and regional and global powers were drawn into the conflict.

Based on the latest UN figures released mid-June, the number of IDPs now stands at 6.2 million, while the number of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries (Jordan, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Turkey and Lebanon) has reached 5.6 million, causing the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

The death toll in Syria's conflict, now in its eighth year, has reached almost 511,000, according to the UK-based monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

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