Between opportunities and challenges: Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock travels to Iraq

Foreign Minister Baerbock with her iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein in Baghdad

Foreign Minister Baerbock with her iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein in Baghdad, © Kira Hofmann/photothek.de

07.03.2023 - Article

Nowhere in the Middle East do dangers and opportunities collide as they do in Iraq. On the one hand, there is the fight against terrorism, tensions between Shiites and Sunnis, the climate crisis. On the other, a cultural diversity, the cradle of civilisation, a young population and democracy.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is to make her first trip to Iraq from 7 to 10 March. For many years, Germany has been working to support successful stabilisation in Iraq. However, the influence of the large neighbouring state of Iran, Turkey’s military intervention in the Region of Kurdistan-Iraq and ongoing climate change is gnawing away at the country’s stability. If Iraq with all its different ethnic and religious groups and its minorities is able to show that peaceful coexistence is possible, it will become a model for the entire region.

I want to reassure our Iraqi partners that Germany not only believes in a bright and peaceful future for Iraq, but will also continue to work to this end.

- Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock

Iraq has had a new Government for some three months now. In Baghdad, Foreign Minister Baerbock will have talks with the Iraqi Prime Minister and Foreign Minister about cooperation and German support for Iraq’s stabilisation efforts. Germany’s military engagement as part of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS and the NATO Mission Iraq remains a very important factor. The German Bundeswehr has been involved in the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS together with 77 partners since 2015 and in the NATO Mission Iraq since 2020. One focus is to enable Iraqi forces and security forces to secure their country’s stability themselves. Annalena Baerbock will meet representatives of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), of Operation Inherent Resolve, as well as the NATO Mission Iraq including Bundeswehr soldiers.

Foreign Minister Baerbock with Masrour Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdistan Region
Foreign Minister Baerbock with Masrour Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdistan Region© Kira Hofmann/photothek.de

Dealing with the consequences of the genocide of the Yazidis by the so‑called Islamic State is an integral part of efforts to secure stability durably and sustainably. In Erbil, Foreign Minister Baerbock will also talk to representatives of the Kurdistan-Iraq regional government about how to create prospects for the survivors. Hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons who managed to escape the IS reign of terror have sought refuge in the region. The Federal Government is supporting the Iraqi state to enable Yazidis to return home. This is one of the purposes of the Funding Facility for Stabilization (FFS) initiated by Germany and a loan of more than 500 million euro granted by the Federal Government. The money will be used in Sinjar, for example, to repair electricity supplies and streets or to rebuild sewers, schools and kindergartens. Iraqi authorities at provincial level will also be included in the planning and implementation of these projects.

The trauma of this genocide sits deep – as was clearly shown during the pandemic by the number of women in the camps who committed suicide. It is our duty and responsibility to ensure that the survivors are not abandoned.

- Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock

The city of Dohuk has in recent years taken in many internally displaced persons and refugees, both from Iraq and Syria. Here, Annalena Baerbock will talk to survivors in a refugee camp for internally displaced persons.

Foreign Minister Baerbock with white roses in front of a grave
Foreign Minister Baerbock at the Yazidi village Kocho© Kira Hofmann/photothek.de

However, it is Sinjar district that is traditionally home to many Yazidis. It was in Kocho, a Yazidi village, that the genocide of the Yazidi community at the hands of the so‑called Islamic State began on 3 August 2014. Many of the survivors from Kocho, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nadia Murad, have made their way to Germany through the Baden-Württemberg admission programme. Annalena Baerbock will visit the village, which is today a memorial site, as well as a trauma centre. In the documentation centre run by the United Nations Investigative Team UNITAD, criminal dossiers of the crimes are collated to combat impunity for perpetrators. Germany supports the legal investigation of IS crimes. Accountability is a fundamental prerequisite for justice and durable peace in the Yazidi community’s home region.

Iraq is one of the five countries in the world hardest hit by climate change and as a relevant emitter of greenhouse gases is both responsible for and increasingly a victim of climate change. Symbolic for the desiccation and salination of whole swathes of land is the marshland near Basra in southern Iraq which Foreign Minister Baerbock is to visit. The ancient marshes on the floodplains of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, which many identify as the Biblical Garden of Eden, are constantly shrinking. It is however not just the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage of the marshes which risks drying up but also the livelihoods of the people living there.


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