Margot Wallström and Peter Hultqvist visited Iraq on 2–3 November
On 3 November, Minister for Foreign Affairs Margot Wallström and Minister for Defence Peter Hultqvist concluded a joint visit to Iraq. One key event was a visit to the Swedish contribution to the military multinational operation in northern Iraq. Developments in Iraq are disturbing and in many ways, the country is at a decisive crossroads. The purpose of the visit was to express support for the country’s pro-reform forces and to highlight the scope and sustainability of the Swedish commitment to Iraq, both bilaterally and via the international coalition against ISIL.
In addition to visiting the Swedish military personnel on the ground in northern Iraq, the ministers also met representatives of the Iraqi government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil.
The visit began on 2 November in Baghdad, where the two ministers had meetings with President Fuad Masum, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Salim al-Jabouri, Minister of Defence Khaled al-Obeidi and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who hosted the visit.
Meetings in Iraqi Kurdistan
On Monday evening, the visit continued in Erbil, the capital of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan in northern Iraq. The ministers attended a dinner hosted by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, at which government representatives of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) parties took part.
On Tuesday, Ms Wallström and Mr Hultqvist took part in a meeting with Minister for the Interior and acting Minister of Peshmerga Affairs Karim Sinjari and Head of KRG Foreign Relations Falah Mustafa Bakir. The ministers also met representatives of civil society and of the Assyrian, Yazidi and Turkmen minorities in Iraq. On Tuesday, the ministers also met KRG President Masoud Barzani for talks on developments in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Visit to Swedish military force
The trip to Iraq concluded with a visit to the regional coalition headquarters and the Swedish military force that, since the summer, has been operating within the framework of the international coalition against ISIL. The Swedish force consists of 35 persons, whose task is to train the Iraqi armed forces in the fight against ISIL.
Sweden has close relations with Iraq. The countries have extensive people-to-people exchanges. Close to two per cent of the Swedish population has Iraqi roots. Since 2014, Sweden has provided Iraq with more than SEK 300 million in humanitarian support, thereby making it one of the largest bilateral donors to Iraq. The humanitarian support, which is mainly channelled via the UN on the ground, is crucial to relieving the difficult humanitarian situation, with 8.6 million people in need of humanitarian support. It is also vital in trying to avoid even more Iraqis seeing no other choice than to make their way to Europe. In addition, Sweden has engaged in bilateral development cooperation with Iraq, focusing on democracy and human rights, and support to civil society.