BAKU, Azerbaijan — Germany is sending a mission to northern Iraq to examine whether its military, and possibly those of other European nations, can expand the training of Kurdish forces battling jihadists there, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Thursday.
Asked about reports in the German media that training by Germany’s armed forces in Irbil, in northern Iraq, would soon expand, Steinmeier noted that his country’s cabinet had approved both humanitarian aid and the delivery of military weapons, along with limited training on them, several weeks ago.
“We have an exploratory mission which is examining what and whether something could work” in Irbil in terms of expanded training, Steinmeier said at a news conference during a visit to Azerbaijan.
Germany has received what he called “signals” from European Union members that such training “could be interesting for them,” and that they might join the effort.
Irbil is the main city in the Kurdish-controlled region of northern Iraq.
Steinmeier’s announcement was the latest sign that Germany is ready to play a more robust role on the international stage, particularly in the Middle East and in addressing events in Ukraine. Germany’s relative proximity to Syria and Iraq, and its policies to date, have had a direct effect at home: Refugee facilities are overflowing, and there have been violent clashes between Kurds and the police in some German cities.
Azerbaijan shares a border with Iran, another focus of international diplomacy as the deadline nears for an agreement to limit Iran’s enrichment of uranium — and to prevent that country from developing a nuclear weapon — after almost a decade of negotiations.
In July, international negotiators extended the deadline on the Iran talks by four months, with discussions expected to come to a head in November, after the midterm elections for the U.S. Congress.
Steinmeier embarked on his trip to the Caucasus on Tuesday fresh from a dinner and talks with Secretary of State John Kerry. The two men indicated that Iran had taken up a good chunk of their time, with discussions about how much uranium Iran could continue to enrich, how much enriched uranium it might hold and how to prevent it from building a nuclear weapon.
“There is no such thing as a deal,” Steinmeier emphasized after the talks in Berlin on Tuesday. There has to be a well-negotiated and firm agreement that prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, he said.