Shafaq News / The recent visit of Nechirvan Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Region, to Berlin and his constructive discussions with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, along with other senior German officials, signify a crucial milestone in Germany's ongoing efforts to foster closer ties with both Baghdad and Erbil. This diplomatic rapprochement, which has been steadily reinforced over the past six months, holds the promise of yielding positive outcomes on the political and economic fronts, benefiting millions of Iraqis and Kurds alike.
Approximately six months following Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani's visit to Germany, which served as a catalyst for the strengthening of bilateral relations, and three months subsequent to German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock's visit to Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani's visit to Berlin marked the culmination of a series of agreements and understandings in diverse areas. Perhaps the most noteworthy among these is the agreement reached with Siemens, aimed at addressing Iraq's pressing electricity issue.
Consequently, seasoned observers posit that Nechirvan Barzani's visit to Germany serves to underscore the existing foundations laid down for advancing German economic and political objectives. It also represents a reassuring sign for Berlin, which has placed significant importance on its relations with Erbil and the Kurds, particularly in the past three decades. This significance has been amplified over time, particularly with the declaration of the region's independence and the subsequent emergence of the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). In response to this threat, Germany promptly took action to reinforce regional military structures, with a particular focus on supporting the Peshmerga forces as a bulwark against terrorism.
This visit occurs amidst a period of enhanced regional cooperation and harmony, which undoubtedly bodes well for improving the political, economic, and security landscape in Kurdistan and Iraq as a whole. Additionally, German aspirations in the realm of commerce with regional nations gain further momentum and credibility through this visit, fostering an environment conducive to regional de-escalation.
Furthermore, the Arab-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in a recently published report, highlighted that the volume of trade between Arab countries and Germany from January to November 2022 reached a staggering 46.3 billion euros, reflecting a significant increase of 24.8% compared to the corresponding period in 2021. Regarding Iraq specifically, data indicates that the value of German imports from Iraq amounted to 1795.5 million euros, while German exports to Iraq reached a sum of 958 million euros.
The aforementioned figures pertaining to trade exchange between Germany and Iraq were reported prior to the visits of Prime Minister al-Sudani at the beginning of 2023, the German Foreign Minister's visit in March, and Nechirvan Barzani's current visit to Berlin. Informed sources suggest that these recent visits will inevitably lead to a further enhancement of trade exchange between the parties involved, potentially reaching unprecedented levels.
A statement released by the presidency of the Kurdistan Region indicated that Nechirvan Barzani's discussions in Berlin encompassed various aspects, including the strengthening of relations between Iraq, Kurdistan, and Germany, as well as expanding the scope of bilateral cooperation. Moreover, the talks addressed the overall situation in Iraq, the Kurdistan Region, and the wider region.
It is evident that Berlin places exceptional importance on its relations with the Kurdistan Region. Experts point out that while Germany's military engagements abroad may be limited, it undertakes one of the most prominent training and armament missions with the Peshmerga forces. The German army has provided the Peshmerga with equipment and weapons ranging from rifles, missiles, launchers, to military vehicles. When the threat of ISIS first emerged approximately nine years ago, the German army swiftly initiated military training programs for Kurdish fighters, both within the region and in camps located within Germany.
According to the European Centre for Counter-Terrorism Studies, by 2019, Germany had trained approximately 10,000 Peshmerga fighters. The same center also revealed that the German Ministry of Defense began exporting weapons to the Kurdistan Region as early as August 2016, with the first shipment alone weighing over 70 tons of advanced weaponry. This process of arming continued for subsequent years.
Considering the presence of over 600,000 German citizens of Kurdish descent, who actively participate in various aspects of German society, Nechirvan Barzani is well aware of these statistics and the significance Berlin places on relations with the Kurdish community at large. Germany's approach to its relations with Iraq and the wider region underscores the importance of the Kurdistan model both within the region and in the context of federal Iraq.
After his meeting with the German Chancellor, Nechirvan Barzani tweeted, "We discussed ideas to further strengthen the existing connections between the Kurdistan Region, Iraq, and Germany... I expressed my gratitude for Germany's assistance throughout the challenging times."
Informed sources have indicated that Nechirvan Barzani's visit aims to build upon the achievements of recent months. When Prime Minister al-Sudani made his initial visit to Europe through Germany, he held talks with senior German officials and major companies, focusing on overcoming obstacles hindering the expansion of German investments in reconstruction and infrastructure development.
Furthermore, Nechirvan Barzani's visit aimed to explore the establishment of air routes connecting Iraqi and German cities, facilitating the influx of German tourists to Iraq's cultural and historical attractions. Additionally, the discussions focused on devising concrete solutions in the electricity sector through a promising plan involving German company Siemens. This plan entails the production and distribution of electricity through 13 power stations, ultimately providing electricity to 23 million Iraqis. Such initiatives serve as fundamental cornerstones for economic revitalization.
The talks also delved into agreements on development, vocational training, and educational programs, as well as streamlining the process of granting entry visas directly to German investors at Iraqi border crossings, be it land, sea, or air, in order to encourage investment.
Nechirvan Barzani also acknowledged Berlin's contribution of approximately $3.4 billion to development and reconstruction efforts in Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region. Germany has also played a significant role in implementing social and development programs that benefit low-income segments, women, and marginalized minorities, including the displaced Yazidi population in the Nineveh Plains. Ongoing training and military cooperation programs between the German army and the Peshmerga are actively working towards enhancing the combat capabilities of Kurdish fighters in the ongoing fight against terrorism.
The three-day visit of German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock to the region proved to be a pivotal moment in shaping Germany's foreign policy towards the region as a whole. During her visit, she closely examined the situation faced by various groups, particularly the initiatives undertaken by Germany in Duhok and Sinjar, with a keen focus on humanitarian efforts.
It is worth noting that Germany has played a significant role in countering ISIS, having joined the Global Coalition against the terrorist organization in 2014. Germany was also the first country to officially recognize the crimes committed against the Yazidis as genocide, and its courts have prosecuted former ISIS fighters for their involvement in such acts.
Against this backdrop, Nechirvan Barzani's visit assumes great significance. Whether in his discussions with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz or Francesca Brantner, the State Secretary of the German Ministry of Economy, they reached a mutual understanding on the need to develop a comprehensive program to assist Iraq and the region in tackling the drought crisis, climate change, and Iraq's drive for renewable energy sources. Furthermore, there was an emphasis on reducing Iraq's dependency on oil, promoting the private sector, and encouraging German investments in both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.
In his discussions with German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Sevina Schulz, the President of the Region explored avenues for strengthening relations between Germany, Iraq, and the Kurdistan Region, as well as collaborative efforts in various fields. Nechirvan Barzani also addressed the situation in Sinjar, the plight of the Yazidis, and the challenges faced by displaced persons and refugees in the region. Climate change risks were also discussed. Nechirvan Barzani expressed gratitude for Germany's support and cooperation with Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, emphasizing the region's commitment to furthering ties with Germany and continuing their collaborative endeavors.
Moreover, following his discussions with German Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Tobias Lindner, the President of the Region urged Germany to sustain its support for Iraq and the Kurdistan Region in the fight against terrorism and the pursuit of security and stability. Lindner reaffirmed Germany's readiness to support Iraq and the Kurdistan Region in any circumstance, highlighting the ongoing responsibilities of the German forces within the framework of the Global Coalition's efforts to combat ISIS.