Koenders visits devastated village in northern Iraq

Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders visited the village of Hashansham in northern Iraq on Monday. The village has been liberated but much of it has been left ravaged and inaccessible by the many mines and booby traps left behind by ISIS.

‘These harrowing scenes underline the importance of the comprehensive approach we are taking in Iraq,’ Mr Koenders said. ‘The Netherlands is not only contributing to the military fight against ISIS, but we are also pushing to ensure that people can return to their villages as quickly as possible. To do so we focusing on demining operations and repairing infrastructure, as well as fostering a reconciliation dialogue between the parties to the conflict.’ Many of the villagers in Hashansham are known to be ISIS supporters, which makes the reconciliation dialogue more difficult.

Following the minister’s visit to Hashansham, he met a number of families who had fled Mosul and are now living in the Khazer refugee camp near Hashansham. This camp currently accommodates some 30,000 people.

Later in the day Mr Koenders met with the Kurdistan Regional Government’s Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani. ‘The importance of the Kurdish contribution to the fight against ISIS must not be underestimated,’ he said. ‘The Kurdistan region has also given refuge to thousands of displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees. Today I spoke to Prime Minister Barzani and Deputy Prime Minister Talabani about the important role of the Kurds. We also talked about the significance of the dialogue between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region, because that is the only way to lasting stability.’

On Monday Mr Koenders is also meeting Dutch military personnel at Camp Stephan, close to Erbil. In northern Iraq the Netherlands and its coalition partners are providing training to the Peshmerga. The minister will express his gratitude and appreciation to the troops for their efforts. ‘The Netherlands is making a major contribution to the fight against ISIS and to capacity building for the Peshmerga, in the same way as we are training Iraqi soldiers in Baghdad. Those receiving the training will be better able to combat ISIS and other violent extremists and to safeguard the country’s stability. So these Dutch military personnel are helping to make not only Iraq safer, but the Netherlands too.’