Foreign Minister Steinmeier travelled to Iraq in the early hours of Monday (7 December). The trip focused on Germany’s support for the efforts to bring stability to liberated areas which were previously controlled by the terrorist group ISIS. Together with further humanitarian assistance, this support is to be increased to a total of 90 million euros in 2016.
Iraq’s stability crucial to the entire region
“Bringing stability to Iraq is just as important as the search for a political solution for Syria when it comes to combating Islamist terrorism and ISIS, but also in dealing with the many major conflicts and problems in the region.” With these words, Foreign Minister Steinmeier stressed the importance of this trip. Steinmeier went on to say that it was intended to signal Germany’s resolve “to stand by Iraq in truly difficult and turbulent times”.
Successes in the fight against ISIS
In the midst of these turbulent times, there have also been positive developments in the course of the last year. For instance, it is about a year ago that the city of Sinjar, in the north-west of Iraq, was seized by the terrorist organisation ISIS. Steinmeier pointed out in Baghdad that the city was liberated just a few weeks ago. And while the success in Sinjar is still recent, initial progress has been made in stabilising the city of Tikrit, 160 km north of Baghdad. Some 90 per cent of the population has returned since the city was liberated in March 2015. “What was achieved in Tikrit must also be possible in Sinjar,” said Steinmeier during his visit. He added that Germany wanted to make an active contribution towards promoting stability. For example, it is hoped that five mobile hospitals will make it possible to restore primary health care as quickly as possible in Sinjar.
Fostering reconciliation is crucial
Foreign Minister Steinmeier first of all met President Fuad Masum and Prime Minister Haider al‑Abadi in the Iraqi capital Baghdad. One key issue discussed during the talks was the work to foster reconciliation among Iraq’s ethnic communities. Steinmeier said that this reconciliation was “key to ensuring that the country’s future really can begin”. Steinmeier went on to say that discrimination against religious or ethnic groups must not be tolerated, this was also the prime principle of Prime Minister al‑Abadi’s political concept.
90 million euros in German assistance
Afterwards, Foreign Minister Steinmeier met his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim al‑Jaafari. During their meeting, Steinmeier announced that Germany was going to considerably increase its support for Iraq. In addition to a further 20 million euros for stabilisation, humanitarian assistance to the tune of 70 million euros had been earmarked for 2016. The successes in liberating and stabilising areas previously controlled by ISIS is now also having an impact in Germany. Steinmeier stated that many of the around 90,000 Iraqi refugees in Germany are currently heading home. He thanked the Iraqi Embassy in Berlin for their efficient and swift cooperation to enable those Iraqis who wanted to return home to do so.
Tensions with Turkey
Despite these successes, Iraq still faces major challenges. These include the recent tensions between the Government in Baghdad and its northern neighbour Turkey. This is due to the stationing of Turkish troops in northern Iraq where Turkey has been carrying out a training mission for some time. Foreign Minister Steinmeier emphasised that, “Iraq is a sovereign state. It goes without saying that foreign troops can only be stationed there with the consent of the Iraqi Government.” He added that he hoped that all governments would help as quickly as possible to reduce tensions and to defuse the situation. He went on to say, “This region cannot take another conflict.” Steinmeier assured the Iraqi Foreign Minister:
No‑one underestimates the work which still lies ahead of you, indeed ahead of us all. I want to assure you that we will do everything in our power to ensure that your work, the cooperation between our two states and the work of the international community will bear the fruits for which we hope.