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Speech by Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on extending the anti-IS operation in the German Bundestag

11.10.2018 - Speech
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaking in the Bundestag about an extension of the Bundeswehr’s mandate to counter IS
Foreign Minister Heiko Maas speaking in the Bundestag about an extension of the Bundeswehr’s mandate to counter IS© dpa

Two weeks ago, the United Nations General Assembly discussed the role of multilateralism in the time ahead. Or perhaps I should say it argued about it. One key question was this: what responsibility does the international community bear for stabilising today’s crisis-hit regions? We want to meet our share of this responsibility. The figures bear this out: in the past three years alone, we have trebled Germany’s contributions to stabilisation and crisis-prevention measures worldwide. 

The fight against so-called “Islamic State” in Iraq is a particularly good illustration of how functioning multilateralism can help resolve international crises, and of the role Germany has played, is playing and can continue to play. The Iraqi security and armed forces have now succeeded in ending Islamic State’s territorial rule, thanks not least to the support of a very broad international coalition in the fight against IS. The military engagement, including that of our Bundeswehr, has helped make it at all possible to establish the prerequisites for reconstruction and stabilisation. Only this joint action has enabled over four million internally displaced persons to return to their homes after the horrors of the IS reign of terror. 

I think, when it comes to talking about migration, this is a remarkable scale of things. And so it is definitely useful to talk about how it happened and what role Germany played.
As a member of this multilateral alliance, Germany made a substantial contribution towards the stabilisation of the country. This is crucial for the entire Middle East region. Our aim should be to continue to help shape these developments in the future. To this end, there is, quite simply, still a need for both military and civilian engagement. Having provided more than 1.4 billion euros since 2014, we are now the second-largest donor in Iraq. We are helping to preserve unity in the country and to further strengthen the state’s monopoly on the use of force. However, it is no secret to say that there is undoubtedly still a long way to go to achieve lasting stability in Iraq. 

There has certainly been progress, some of it encouraging and brining hope for the future. The parliamentary elections in Iraq this year largely went off peacefully, despite all the predictions. That is a clear step forward. Iraq is currently in the midst of a lengthy, difficult, but ultimately democratic process of forming a new government. That is why, even though the government is not yet in place, we are already in contact with all those who might form part of it, but also with the other groups in parliament. As I say, though, we are primarily in contact with those who might form the next government. Talking to us, they all stress that they want German engagement in Iraq to continue.

Fellow Members of this House, our soldiers, development workers and diplomats have played a huge part in establishing these new realities in Iraq. Working under truly difficult conditions, they have made an important contribution over the past few years. For this, I believe, they deserve the gratitude of the Federal Government, but especially of the German parliament.

In the end, this is also in our very own interest. A secure Iraq which is not a breeding ground for terrorists, which offers prospects for the people, and which contributes to regional stability is ultimately the most effective means to tackle the causes of displacement and illegal migration. Iraqis are still the second-largest group of asylum seekers in Germany after Syrians. Particularly in light of this, continuing our engagement in the Global Coalition against Daesh is and will remain more than sensible. 

In the end we found, I believe, a good compromise for the design of the extension to the mandate, one that takes account of current developments in Iraq. In our view, the support of the Iraqi Government remains crucial. We will make this clear in our talks. So we have decided to review our engagement in training in six months ensuring that the future Iraqi Government continues to approve of it. That is, to my mind, a more than legitimate concern. 

Ladies and gentlemen, civilian engagement will remain an outstanding focus of our commitment. We want to do our part to tackle the root causes of radicalisation and extremism on the ground for the long term. We will therefore continue to participate in stabilisation measures too, such as mine and ordnance clearance, or by supporting the local agricultural sector. Our commitment on the ground not only meets with great approval, but is of great importance. It is right not to abandon people halfway through. 

In seeking an extension of the mandate, the Federal Government wants to continue to shoulder responsibility in a multilateral alliance to fight international terrorism. I ask for your support in this.
Thank you.

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