Foreign Minister pledges Czech support for Iraq

Photo: Czech Army

A major conference in Paris on Monday called by French President Francois Hollande has seen 30 countries pledge to help fight militants from Islamic State by “all means necessary”. Most recognized as grave the threat to the region by militants who seized large parts of Iraq in recent months. The Czech Republic, participating in the conference, pledged support for Iraq and the Kurds in this time of crisis.

Photo: Czech Army
Speaking at the Paris conference on Monday Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek stated that the Czech Republic (with traditionally strong relations with Iraq) could not stand “on the sidelines” in the face of danger. The Czech government in past weeks approved 500 tonnes in munitions for Iraq’s Kurds fighting against the radical Islamic State, the militant group of tens of thousands of fighters who have made international headlines for countless atrocities including the recent beheading of American and British hostages and members of the opposing military.

Besides, providing ammunition, which will be transported in coordination with the Canadian Air Force, Foreign Minister Zaorálek said, the Czech Republic would provide humanitarian aid and would offer training of civil defence forces. Here’s what the foreign minister had to say:

Lubomír Zaorálek,  photo: Filip Jandourek
“We are going to try and train Iraqi security forces and the police. We are offering courses and different programmes.”

Earlier this year the Czech government approved the sale of 15 L-159 training fighter jets to Iraq and the foreign minister made clear on Monday that option too was available in the face of the current threat. The country has also offered complete training for 31 Iraqi pilots on Russian-built transport helicopters which have proven their worth in the region. Training will take place at a centre run by LOM Praha at Pardubice’s airport east of Prague and will take one year. Roman Plánička, the head of LOM – a company specializing in the refitting and repairs of Russian Mi helicopters – said that Iraq’s taking part in a planned training programme abroad was a new development.

“This is essentially the first time Iraq’s defence ministry will transfer personnel for training abroad.”

L-159,  photo: Czech Army
Czech TV reported on Monday that the training of Iraqi pilots represents hundreds of millions of crowns for LOM Praha, at risk of being hard hit by EU sanctions against Russia and reciprocal action by Moscow. The reason? The firm relies on regular shipments of parts from Russia for repairs and refitting and would last only a few months if those were to stop. Others are confident the firm will continue to do well, with future orders planned. In any case, the firm will deal with those difficulties if and when they materialize. For now, the Foreign Ministry is focusing on the bigger picture: worrying developments in Iraq and promising the country will do what it can to help.