At the beginning of a four-day visit to Iraq, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock announced further German support for the country. Iraq remains a "key factor for the stability of the region," said the Green politician in Baghdad on Tuesday.
She announced that Germany would continue to work towards a peaceful future for the country. "Because if new terrorism, Iranian influence or the destruction of livelihoods caused by the water crisis should lead to violence and political divisions here again, the consequences would also hit neighboring countries massively," she said.
Baerbock said that if Iraq succeeds in achieving stability and development in democracy and diversity over the long term, it could become a role model for the entire region. That is why Germany has supported Iraq since 2014 with over 3.4 billion euros in civilian funds alone.
Baerbock said that the Federal Republic of Germany is maintaining the pressure to pursue the terrorist militia Islamic State (IS) alongside Iraq and its international partners. "Because the world community did not prevent this genocide, we have all the more responsibility for investigating these crimes and for the survivors to experience justice."
Baerbock first met her counterpart Fuad Hussein in Baghdad. A meeting with Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani was then planned. In the evening, the minister wanted to fly on to Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish autonomous regions in northern Iraq.
In order to get an idea of the German military commitment, she wants to meet soldiers of the Bundeswehr. In Erbil, the Bundeswehr is training Kurdish security forces in the fight against IS. The center of the German training mission is the multinational "Camp Stephan" run by the Bundeswehr.
The minister announced that she would also like to talk about Iran's problematic regional role and the Turkish and Iranian attacks on Iraqi territory in both Baghdad and Erbil. In addition, she will promote the joint fight against the consequences of the climate crisis, "so that the people in Mesopotamia can not only look back on a history that is thousands of years old, but can also look to the future with confidence".
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also paid a surprise visit to Baghdad on Tuesday and offered a continuation of military operations in the country. The US associations are "ready to stay" if there is an invitation to do so from the Iraqi government, Austin said. Since the end of the combat operation against IS, US military units have continued to be stationed in Iraq, where they are tasked with advising and training the Iraqi army.
During his visit, Austin described the US military presence as an "important mission". Its purpose is to "advise, support and enable" the Iraqi military in their "fight against terrorism". However, the US military must be able to "operate safely and securely to continue to do this essential work".
Upon his arrival, Austin said the purpose of his visit was to reaffirm the strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq. Iraq is on the way to becoming "more secure, more stable and more sovereign," the Pentagon chief wrote on Twitter.
Austin's visit comes days before the 20th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq that toppled longtime ruler Saddam Hussein. On March 20, 2003, US troops launched their offensive in Iraq with the support of an international coalition. This began one of the bloodiest chapters in Iraqi history, marked by years of conflict and political instability.
More than ten years after its troop invasion, the United States supported Iraq at the head of an international military coalition in the fight against the IS militia when they occupied parts of northern and western Iraq in 2014. The extremists were driven out of territories it occupied in 2017 but continue to have sleeper cells in desert and mountain hideouts in both Iraq and neighboring Syria.
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