ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said on Tuesday that his country hopes to see a "stronger" Kurdistan Region as it forms a new government and noted that Amsterdam will continue to train Peshmerga forces.
Blok made the remarks during a press conference with Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Nechirvan Barzani after the two met in Erbil to discuss various current issues.
The Dutch minister arrived in Erbil on Monday evening after a short visit to Baghdad, during which he met with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi.
The Netherlands is part of the US-led international coalition against the Islamic State and has military personnel in the country who provide training and advice to both Peshmerga and federal Iraqi forces.
Blok also confirmed, through an interpreter, that Amsterdam will continue its training program for Peshmerga forces, stating that the Netherlands wants to see a "stronger" Kurdistan Region and hoped that a government would be formed "in the near future" that "has great ambitions."
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), winner of 45 out of the 111 total seats in the regional parliament, is currently negotiating with various other political parties in the Kurdistan Region to form the next government. To the south, parallel negotiations in Baghdad to agree on the final allocation of ministries in Iraq's federal cabinet have stalled.
Blok said that his country looks forward to strengthening relations with the Kurdistan Region in various sectors, especially in regards to the economy and assistance to internally displaced persons and refugees.
The provinces of the Kurdistan Region host hundreds of thousands of displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees, exacerbating the financial crisis the region has been suffering from for the past four years. Recent trends, however, indicate the start of a recovery.
The Dutch minister added that his nation has been leading others in the European Union in embracing refugees from the Kurdistan Region during this period.
For his part, Nechirvan Barzani praised the role of the Netherlands in supporting the region, making particular note of the military training it has provided.
"We also call on [the Netherlands] to help us develop the fields of food and agriculture as it has considerable expertise in these."
Last year, former Dutch Foreign Minister Bret Kunders said when he visited Erbil that his country was committed to supporting the energy, agriculture, and water/sanitation sectors in the region.
Dutch Consul-General Willem Cosijn, speaking with Kurdistan 24 on Monday, highlighted the ongoing robust Erbil-Amsterdam relations, adding that his goal was to keep them that way.
"In the post Da'esh (IS) era" Amsterdam is looking to "team up" with the Kurdistan Region to "make the relations economically sustainable."
Kurdistan 24 also spoke with Dutch Ambassador to Iraq Matthijs Wolters following Blok’s arrival in Erbil.
Matthijs said the Dutch foreign minister and the Kurdish prime minister discussed the development of bilateral relations which will be much more defined with the stabilization of economic relations.
“Our foreign minister came to the Kurdistan Region and had a discussion with the prime minister on the longstanding relations we have on security-related matters, the cooperation we have between our ministry of defense and the Kurdish peshmerga,” he stated. “We would like to see our companies come to the region, especially in the area of agricultural.”
“Our government informed parliament that we will continue the cooperation on the training [of Peshmerga] as we have started this a few years ago,” Matthijs added.
Editing by John J. Catherine
(Additional reporting by Blessa Shaweys)