October 20, 2017 / 11:57 AM / a year ago

Germany says hopes to resume training of Kurdish fighters in Northern Iraq

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany hopes to resume its mission training Kurdish Peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq on Sunday, provided the conflict between the Kurds and the Iraqi government does not worsen, a German defense ministry spokesman said on Friday.

Germany suspended its training assistance last week citing the increased tensions between Baghdad and the Kurds after the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq voted in a non-binding referendum for independence.

Germany, along with other Western nations, joined Baghdad and Iraq’s neighbors in opposing the referendum, partly due to concerns that it would distract from the fight against Islamic State militants, in which the Kurds have played a key role.

“If there is no serious changes on the ground, it’s highly probable that the training will resume on Sunday,” the German defense ministry spokesman said.

The spokesman said Germany took the decision to resume the training after consultations with the Kurdish and Iraqi parties and with the United States.

He was speaking on the day when Iraqi forces completed their push to take back control of the contested province of Kirkuk from the Kurds, who had moved into the area in 2014 to prevent Islamic State seizing the oilfields.

Germany has provided 32,000 assault rifle and machine guns, as well as other weapons valued at around 90 million euros since 2014.

About 150 German soldiers are providing training to the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters for their combat against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.

Reporting By Riham Alkousaa; Editing by Gareth Jones

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