MESOP : THE EU OUT OF ORDER – Iraqi Kurdistan to EU: ‘we are reaching a breaking point’

BRUSSELS,— 5 June 2015 – RUDAW – Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s Planning Minister Ali Sindi appealed to the Europeans Thursday for urgent medical, humanitarian, military and financial aid, as advances by the Islamic State (ISIS) continue to displace growing numbers of civilians.“We are reaching a breaking point,” he warned.

The minister joined officials from the central government in Baghdad on a visit to the European Parliament in Brussels to reinforce a United Nations appeal for $500 million in aid.But Sindi alluded to tensions between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the central government, when he complained that KRG representatives had been excluded from an Iraqi delegation that went to Paris this week to discuss how to confront the threat from ISIS.“We in Iraqi Kurdistan are very concerned to be kept away from some of the global dialogue on security and combating terrorism in our region,” he told the members of parliament.

“Today Kurdistan is fighting terrorism with Peshmerga boots on the ground in a warfront of more than 100 kilometers, with more than 1,300 Peshmerga murdered and more than 6,000 wounded since the beginning of the conflict,” he said.“Here I would like to ask for the help of the (European) individual country members to help in treating the wounded Peshmerga fighters,” he said without elaborating.Sindi reminded European Union (EU) MPs that, not only had Iraqi Kurdistan opened its doors to refugees from Syria, it also welcomed close to one million people from other parts of Iraq late last year: Christians, Yezidis, Turkmen and Arabs. He said the five million Iraqi Kurds are hosting around 1.7 million displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees. The Iraqi Kurds have built more than 30 camps, “but we are struggling in funding and managing the operations.” Even Kurdish families have opened their homes, Sindi noted. “They are overstretched and unable to do more,” he warned.

Two thirds of the displaced Iraqi children and half of the Syrian refugee children are not enrolled in any educational program, while poverty rates have more than doubled and the standard of living has dropped, Sindi explained.

He worried that the summer might bring cholera to certain areas, and that in addition to the UN appeal for $500 million, the World Bank projects the KRG will need at least $1.4 billion this year to “stabilize” the situation resulting from the wave of refugees and displaced people.

Sindi said that the Kurdish region’s fiscal situation is “precarious,” adding that civil servants and Peshmerga forces have not received salaries for the past three months.“We need the support of the EU and individual European countries to fund the United Nations appeal, but also to help the Kurdistan government,” the minister said.He asked for military support, humanitarian aid and help to develop the economy: “Without a strong and sustained support from the international community we will not be able to cope.”

Lise Grande, a senior UN official responsible for aid to Iraq, told the parliament that “the human crisis in Iraq is the most complex and volatile in the world.” She warned: “It is also the most rapidly unfolding crisis.”

Grande estimated that by the end of this year 10 million of Iraq’s 36 million people “are likely to need some form of life saving assistance.”

She added: “We fear if the humanitarian operations collapse — and certainly may — if funding does not come.” If that happened, she warned, “national reconciliation in Iraq will be undermined and further fragmentation may occur.”Christos Stylianides, the European commissioner for humanitarian affairs, announced that the EU would send an additional 25 million euros in humanitarian aid for Iraq in addition to the 38 million euros already allocated. In an interview with Rudaw, Zana Kurda, the director of EU relations at the KRG, said he joined Sindi and KRG mission chief Delavar Ajgeiy in meetings with Stylianides and representatives of EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. He said Sindi asked the EU for “increased engagement with the KRG because it “is effectively the party who provided humanitarian aid to the IDPs and refugees.”

Kurda added: “There was much respect and recognition for the generosity of the Kurdish people and the Kurdish government.”

“They also expressed their understanding for the difficult position of KRG; as we saw there are the budget problem with Baghdad and our fight against terrorism,” he said.Ajgeiy has said the central government has failed to fulfill its agreement to provide the KRG with 17 percent of the Iraqi budget.Kurda said: “the government of Iraq has done literally nothing for the IDPs, neither morally nor financially. It was KRG who did it.”He said speakers like Grande gave a false impression when she said that the Iraqi government was “fully engaged” in the humanitarian operation for all of Iraq even though it was strapped for cash because of plunging oil prices. “Baghdad has money but they made the choice not to spend any pennies on IDPs. Baghdad should have been more criticized for doing nothing,” Kurda said.


By Salwa Nakhoul Carmichael