nsnbc : Addressing the lower house of parliament on Tuesday, outgoing German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel appealed to MPs to extend the mission of German troops training Peshmerga in the Kurdistan Autonomous Region (KAR) of Iraq, arguing that international presence there would help prevent a civil war.

German troops training Kurdish Peshmerga in Iraq’s Kurdistan Autonomous Region. Image courtesy Bundeswehr.

Addressing Germany’s lower house of parliament (Bundestag) Sigmar Gabriel said: “The more international groups are active there, the lower the chance of a new escalation. … A withdrawal would be the wrong signal to the parties to the conflict, as if we were resigned to accepting the danger of a new civil war.”

About 130 German soldiers are based at the international anti-ISIS Combined Joint Operations Command Center, where they have worked with Iraqi and Kurdish commanders, in addition to Peshmerga units through the Kurdistan Training Coordination Center (KTTC).

German lawmakers last month agreed on a short-term extension of their deployment pending the formation of a new government after elections. The parliament must renew troop deployments annually.

Gabriel’s Social Democratic party suffered heavy losses in the September elections and he will be stepping down from his post. Gabriel said he remained hopeful that a “fragile ceasefire” between Kurdish and Iraqi forces will hold and political solution can be found. “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.”

The presence of relatively small contingents of German and other foreign forces in the Kurdistan region and their cooperation with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Kurdish Peshmerga is widely perceived as a political statement and posture that aims to deter transgressions against Kurds by Iranian-backed predominantly Iraqi-Shia militia organized in the Popular Mobilization Forces (Hashd al-Shaabi) and regular Iraqi forces.

Kurdish and Iraqi military leaders are engaged in talks after clashes between them following Kurdistan’s independence referendum and Iraq’s retaking of disputed areas. Talks have recently snagged as the Kurds claim the Iraqis are refusing to budge from their hardline stance. No political talks have yet taken place, despite repeated calls from the Kurdish leadership and the international community.

CH/L – nsnbc 08.11.2017



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