Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard said his country is helping arm the Kurds in their fight with the Islamic State. Photo: AP.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark is joining the international effort to arm Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) forces in their fight against Islamic extremists, though some leaders are concerned that the weapons will fall into the hands of Kurdish rebels.
Denmark has decided to send a 55-person military team in a Hercules aircraft carrying emergency aid and weapons to fight the Islamic State (IS/formerly ISIS) in northern Iraq.
Denmark, which is coordinating with the United States and the United Nations, initially indicated that it would only transport aid to help the hundreds of thousands of people who have fled IS threats but has decided to send weapons, ammunition and other equipment.
Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard received strong parliamentary support to join US-led military and humanitarian operations.
"The government has received very broad support to increase our efforts in Iraq, which is partly a humanitarian contribution to the 1.5 million people who are in need in Iraq at the moment and partly the aircraft, which will transport ammunition and light weapons to the Kurdish and Iraqi forces fighting against IS,” Lidegaard said in a press release.
Some Danish politicians, however, are skeptical that the Danish involvement could inadvertently support the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which the European Union (EU) labels a terrorist organization.
Since IS captured about a third of Iraq in June, the PKK, which is based in Iraqi Kurdistan, has become part of the war. The PKK’s affiliate, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria, are fighting IS alongside the KRG’s Peshmerga troops.
The PKK’s de facto involvement has been an issue for several European nations. France, Britain and Germany are sending weapons to the Peshmerga, but there are concerns that the arms could fall into the hands of groups affiliated with the PKK.
The situation is also complicated for the United States, which designates the PKK as a terrorist organization and is carrying out airstrikes on IS positions in support of the KRG.
Soren Espersen, foreign affairs spokesman for the Danish opposition party The Danish People’s Party, said it “confuses me that we somehow now need to be allied with the PKK.”
“The PKK is on our own terror list. The United States and France now want to supply arms to the organization and that seems strange to me,” Espersen said.
Zana Kurda, an advisor for the KRG’s European Union mission, pledged that weapons from the EU would not be delivered to the PKK.
"The EU countries have no reason to worry. Everything will be transparent and in accordance with international law," Kurda said.
Nikolaj Villumsen, a Danish MP with the opposition Unity List, rejected Espersen's concern.
"The PKK militias have made great efforts in Yezidi areas. Additionally, the PKK and the Turks have been negotiating peace for over a year, so we should work to remove the PKK from the terrorist list," Villumsen said.