ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Tuesday urged parliament to extend the military mission training Peshmerga fighters in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, warning a withdrawal of German troops would raise the risks of a civil war in the country.
Germany is a member of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS) which has trained and supplied Peshmerga forces with military equipment, including German MILAN anti-tank system.
Following the Sep. 25 referendum in the Kurdistan Region and the subsequent clashes in disputed territories with Iraqi forces and Shia militias on Oct. 16, Germany temporarily halted its training mission in the Region before resuming it a week or so later.
Gabriel, who will soon step down following his Social Democrat party's losses in the Sep. 24 elections, was asking the incoming administration, particularly the Greens, not to stand against an extension of Germany’s military mission in Iraq.
There are currently 150 German troops in the Kurdistan Region training Peshmerga fighters in the fight against IS. Recent clashes between Peshmerga and Iraqi Forces raised concerns in Germany about the future of its mission in the country.
“The more international groups are active there, the lower the chance of a new escalation,” Gabriel said.
“A withdrawal would be the wrong signal to send to the parties [involved in] the conflict, as if we were resigned to accepting the danger of a new civil war,” the German official told reporters.
He mentioned that the government in Berlin had met with various parties in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, urging them to find a political solution through peaceful means.
“We hope that the very fragile ceasefire holds and that a political solution can be achieved. A new civil war in Iraq would bring unbelievable suffering to this country, which has already suffered too much as a result of political conflicts in recent years,” German Foreign official added.
About 93 percent of those who participated in the vote in the Kurdistan Region and disputed territories favored full secession from Iraq. The Sep. 25 referendum was opposed by Baghdad, neighboring countries, and the US.
Weeks after the referendum, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered forces, along with the Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias, to take control of the oil-rich Kirkuk province and other disputed territories.
After several intense clashes between both sides, Abadi declared a ceasefire on Oct. 27.
The German cabinet has asked the Bundestag to vote to extend the mission by three months to give the next administration time to review all foreign missions.
Editing by Nadia Riva