Baghdad (MTI) – Just over 100 Hungarian troops ready to join the international coalition fighting against the Islamic State (IS) will soon leave for Erbil, Iraq, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told MTI on Monday.
Speaking from Baghdad over the phone, Szijjarto said six officers serving at command posts would be the first to leave, at the end of May, with the deployment of the remaining troops set to be completed by the end of August.
The foreign minister said that 110 troops would be serving in Iraq, with a further 27 troops standing by in Hungary.
The minister said Iraq was appreciative of the Hungarian government’s efforts, as Hungary was the first Central European country to send troops to Iraq. The defeat of IS is in the best interests of both Europe and the Middle East, he said.
When asked about the Hungarian contingent’s assignments, Szijjarto said the Hungarian troops would be handling security tasks in and around Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq. The troops will be responsible for guarding the Kurdish peshmerga forces’ military base and its officers, he said.
Szijjarto also held talks with Iraqi officials on the country’s reconstruction phase after IS. The minister said the two countries are seeking to sign an economic collaboration agreement in connection with the reconstruction, as well as an agreement to eliminate double taxation, later this year. Hungary’s Eximbank had opened a 20 million dollar credit line, which is already being discussed to fund bilateral cooperation in the automotive and health-care industries and construction, the minister added.
Szijjarto said the government sees Hungarian oil and gas company MOL, which holds exploration and production rights in two gas fields in the Kurdistan region, as the flagship of Hungary’s bilateral cooperation with Iraq.
The minister and Iraqi officials also agreed that Hungary would take the necessary steps to ensure that the Hungarian parliament ratifies the EU-Iraq Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.