Ploumen deeply affected by situation in Iraq, but optimistic

This evening marked the conclusion of a two-day visit to Iraq by Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation. She travelled to Baghdad, Fallujah, Erbil and the Mosul region, together with the Minister of Defence, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert. ‘These are very difficult times for Iraq. It will take a huge effort and many sacrifices before people can really get their lives back on track. At the same time, however, we’re seeing some hopeful progress,’ Ms Ploumen said.

 

Today, her visit took her to Qayyara in northern Iraq. Tens of thousands of people have fled there since the battle to liberate Mosul from the terrorist organisation IS began. ‘Hard work is going on around the clock to provide the best possible reception facilities. But the circumstances are still harrowing. It’s terrible to think of people fleeing their homes, only to end up spending a bitterly cold winter here in a tent,’ Ms Ploumen commented. During her visit, she announced that the Netherlands would contribute an extra €5 million in humanitarian aid, given that the number of refugees fleeing from conflict areas is only set to rise in the future. At the moment there are still a million people in the besieged city of Mosul.

On Monday, the two ministers visited Fallujah, a city east of Baghdad. Until mid-2016, Fallujah was held by IS, who wreaked havoc during their retreat. ‘The destruction is incredible. Literally everything in the main hospital has been destroyed: X-ray equipment, A&E departments, operating theatres. But at the same time I’m greatly impressed that 200,000 people have already returned, seeking to rebuild their lives and their city,’ Ms Ploumen said. She also visited a school that has reopened.

The Netherlands contributes in various ways to improving the situation in Iraq. It provides military support, emergency aid and assistance in rebuilding infrastructure, e.g. the electricity grid, schools and drinking water supplies. It has earmarked €25 million for such assistance in 2016 and 2017. Since 2014, over €68 million has been earmarked for emergency aid. Another €11 million has been donated to mine clearance programmes.

This afternoon Ms Ploumen also met with Qubad Talabani, deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, in Erbil. Afterwards, she and defence minister Hennis visited the Dutch troops serving in the international coalition against IS, who are training Iraqi and Kurdish troops.