ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A European delegation visited the autonomous Kurdistan Region and met with senior Kurdish officials to assess the humanitarian situation on the ground and discuss the EU’s support to displaced persons.
Christos Stylianides, the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, on Feb. 15 – the first day of the 2019 Munich Security Conference – told Kurdistan 24 that a European delegation would visit Mosul soon “to assess the situation on the ground” and decide how their support to Iraq and the Kurdistan Region would continue.
The delegation arrived in Erbil on Monday evening. Belgian Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Development Cooperation Alexander De Croo led the delegation.
On Tuesday, they met with Masoud Barzani, the President of the leading Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and the former president of the Kurdistan Region.
Highlighting Barzani’s role in the fight against the Islamic State, De Croo explained that their visit to Kurdistan and Iraq was to confirm Europe and Belgium’s pledge to support efforts which promote progress, ensure stability, and are a response to terrorism, according to Barzani’s press office.
De Croo affirmed that Belgium and the EU would remain partners with the Kurdistan Region and are committed to that partnership.
The minister thanked the institutions in the Kurdistan Region for their cooperation with the EU and the world during crises and challenges, especially in its efforts to combat terrorism and assist displaced persons and refugees, the statement read.
The delegation also stressed that the stability and welfare of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region is important to the EU.
Barzani thanked Belgium, a member of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State, for its support to the Kurdish region in the fight against the extremist group.
In another part of the meeting, both sides addressed the dangers of terrorism and extremism in the region and around the globe. They noted that it is vital to combat the Islamic State ideologically not only militarily to eradicate terrorism.
The situation in Syria, Iraq’s Nineveh province, and the return of displaced persons were other topics they discussed while Barzani expressed his concerns about the future of the Kurds in Syria.
The delegation also separately met with Masrour Barzani, the Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC), who was nominated as prime minister to form the new Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) cabinet.
In addition to the fight against the Islamic State and overall humanitarian situation, they discussed bilateral ties as well as business and investment opportunities between both sides, according to a KRSC statement.
Highlighting Belgium’s support to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the fight against the Islamic State, Masrour Barzani noted that “joint mechanisms” between the Peshmerga and Iraqi security forces are “crucial.”
Indepth talks with EU/Belgium delegation led by DPM @alexanderdecroo — I welcomed aid to the displaced community in Kurdistan Region & Iraq. Now must provide conditions necessary for them to return home — security and services; Peshmerga/ISF joint security mechanisms crucial. pic.twitter.com/Tu7LtdpBYO— Masrour Barzani (@masrour_barzani) February 19, 2019
The Kurdish official also hoped the Belgian government and the EU widen their humanitarian assistance to the displaced people in the Kurdistan Region, and prepare the ground for their return to liberated areas.
De Croo expressed his country’s readiness to develop bilateral relations.
Stylianides, meanwhile, underlined the Kurdistan Region’s role in welcoming all the refugees and IDPs who fled from the Islamic State, and expressed the EU’s support to increase humanitarian aid and further cooperation, the statement added.
Following his meetings, De Croo spoke to Kurdistan 24 on Tuesday night while on a visit to the Erbil Citadel. The Belgian official noted that the EU and Belgium wants to remain a partner in making sure the region “becomes a completely free society where everyone has their own freedoms, where people can realize their dreams.”
“The European Union and Belgium wants to be a partner in that—a partner in being neutral toward the way decisions are being taken here in a sovereign way,” he stated.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Barzan Hassan contributed to this report)