The prime minister of Iraqi Kurdistan, during a press conference in Italy, cited the fight to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL) as a “top priority” for his government.
During a joint press conference with Italy’s Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni on March 3, PM Nechirvan Barzani was asked if the Kurdistan region would demand independence after the ISIS war.
“Iraq must be realistic. We are prepared to solve the issues, but for now we have [ISIS] as our top priority,” responded the Kurdistan PM.
“The [Kurdish] Peshmerga [forces] are in the frontline, but I’m confident with the assistance from the international community we will be able to annihilate these terrorists,” Barzani also told reporters in Rome.
Barzani is in Italy on an official visit to meet with Italian Prime Minster Matteo Renzi and Pope Francis at the Vatican.
Italy and the Pope have reportedly voiced support for Kurdistan’s efforts against ISIS.
“Safeen Dizayee, spokesman of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), said that Italy has stressed its commitment to Erbil in its fight against [ISIS],” reports Rudaw.
“Barzani said that Pope Francis has a deep understanding of the situation in Iraq and of refugees made homeless by the ISIS war, adding that the pontiff had expressed the Vatican’s support for the Kurdish government,” adds the Kurdish media outlet.
The Kurdistan PM urged the international community to continue supporting military efforts against ISIS jihadists.
“We have discussed our aid to the Kurdistan region which will be both humanitarian and military,” Italy’s foreign minister told reporters at the joint conference.
“All the different religious groups in Kurdistan, Christians, [Yezidi], Shabaks and others, need our assistance, which is why we need to support the Kurdistan region,” he added.
According to Kurdistan PM Barzani, Pope Francis said “he was grateful for all the support the people of Kurdistan have provided to the Christians, Yezidis, Arabs and all refugees.”
There are 50 Italian military advisors currently training Peshmerga fighters in the Kurdistan region. The Italian military has also provided weapons to the Kurdish forces.
Shortly after Iraqi Kurdistan began combating ISIS on its borders last August, Italian PM Renzi visited the region, making him one of the first European leaders to do so.