Prague steps up humanitarian aid to Iraq

Bohuslav Sobotka, Haider al-Abadi, photo: CTK

Czech prime minister visits Iraq to discuss humanitarian aid, military cooperation and possibilities for Czech firms in the country’s reconstruction.

Bohuslav Sobotka,  Haider al-Abadi,  photo: CTK
The Czech Republic has announced it will grant Iraq 66 million crowns (7 million dollars) in humanitarian aid this year as the country struggles to deal with millions of Iraqis displaced by the war against Islamic State. On an official visit to Iraq at the weekend Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka met with the country’s leaders to discuss the war against terrorism, post-IS stabilization efforts and possibilities for bilateral cooperation in rebuilding the war-torn country.

Bohuslav Sobotka’s two day visit to Iraq came as Iraqi forces battled to liberate the city of Tal Afar. At a conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Baghdad the Czech head of government congratulated Iraq on its victories over IS militants and confirmed his country's continued support in the war on terrorism.

“This victory is important not just for Iraq and its people; it is vitally important for Europe as well. As we see it the war on Daesh, is a war on terror, in which Iraq must not be left to fight alone.”

Prime Minister Abadi expressed his country’s appreciation of the Czech Republic’s support both in the spheres of military cooperation and humanitarian aid.

The Czech Republic has been an active member of the U.S.-led international coalition against Islamic State, supplying Iraq with L-159 fighter jets, weapons and ammunition. In fact Iraq has been the biggest importer of Czech arms in the last two years.

The country has also shared its expertise; a 35-member team of Czech aviation experts is currently active at the Balad military base, north of Bagdad, training Iraqi pilots, while at Camp Dublin in Bagdad a team of military police officers are training recruits for the Iraqi police force.

Battle of Mosul,  photo: Christopher Brecht,  U.S. Army,  Public Domain
The Czech government has also provided medical and humanitarian aid, which is being stepped up as the country struggles to deal with millions of Iraqis displaced by the war against Islamic State. Between 2012 and 2016 Prague sent 93.6 million crowns in humanitarian aid to the country; this year alone it has earmarked close to 66 million crowns. Iraq’s war against Islamic State has displaced nearly three million civilians since 2014. As they return they are in need of shelter, food, health care and education.

Prime Minister Sobotka also said his country was hoping to take an active part in the rebuilding of Iraq’s war torn infrastructure and economy. Possibilities are opening up particularly in the oil industry where Czech firms have a long tradition; 60 percent of Iraq’s oil refining plants were built by former Czechoslovak companies.

Cooperation in the area of culture is already established. The oriental institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences is working to document damage to cultural monuments in Mosul since 2015 and a team of Czech archaeologists is undertaking research and excavations near the city of Erbil.