Iraqi PM in Germany to discuss reduction of troops and battling terrorism

Mustafa Al Kadhimi met German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi arrive for a news conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany October 20, 2020. Stefanie Loos/Pool via REUTERS
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Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi met German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday to discuss the fight against terrorism, Iraq’s reconstruction and the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Al Kadhimi, who left Baghdad on Sunday on a four-day European tour, made his first stop in Paris, where he met French President Emmanuel Macron and other officials.

He travelled to Berlin late on Monday to hold talks about Germany’s involvement in the US-led coalition fighting ISIS.

“I came to Berlin to affirm Iraq’s commitment to maintaining close relations with Germany, and also to convey our appreciation to the government and people of Germany for their assistance to Iraq in the fields of confronting terrorism and humanitarian assistance,” Mr Al Kadhimi said, standing alongside Mrs Merkel.

He said Berlin’s support was crucial to his country’s reconstruction work and spoke about his government’s “ambitious programme” to modernise and rebuild the Iraqi economy.

“There are many things that we are seeking co-operation on, such as the issue of refugees and displaced persons as well as the problem of foreign ISIS fighters,” Mr Al Kadhimi said.

Mrs Merkel praised the Iraqi government’s “will to reform”.

“The fight against corruption, the rule of law, the strengthening of state institutions and the state’s monopoly on the use of force – these are key words on the agenda and it is a very ambitious agenda,” she said.

The reform agenda includes Mr Al Kadhimi’s plans to hold early elections in June 2021.

“Through these measures, the Iraqi people’s confidence in state institutions can be strengthened,” Mrs Merkel said.

The two leaders were expected to discuss Germany’s troop presence in Iraq and the region.

Germany announced last year that it would extend its mission in Iraq for another year to assist the anti-ISIS coalition.

But it said it would continue to reduce its presence in the wider region.

The extension, which comes to an end this month, is due to be evaluated in coming weeks.

Mrs Merkel said Germany would continue to support Iraq in the fight against ISIS through the international anti-ISIS coalition and Nato.

Mr Al Kadhimi thanked Germany for its efforts to bring stability to the region.

“This has shown how the security and stability of Iraq is connected to the security of Europe,” he said.

“We look forward to continuing our security and military co-operation in the fight against terrorism, especially in the field of training and building the capability the Iraqi security forces within the framework of Nato.”

Iraq’s Foreign Minister, Fuad Hussein, said last month that his country still required training and support from Germany to thwart ISIS.

Several agreements were expected to be signed by the two sides.

Mr Al Kadhimi’s last stop will be London, where he is expected to hold discussions with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

During his visit to France, Mr Al Kadhimi and Mr Macron stressed the importance of the fight against terrorism, the French government said on Tuesday.

Mr Macron visited Iraq last month, when he expressed his support for Iraq’s sovereignty and said the country's main challenges were terrorism and foreign interference.

The two leaders on Monday welcomed plans by French group Alstom to work on the Baghdad metro project.

Mr Macron tweeted a picture of himself and Mr Al Kadhimi, and said in Arabic that France would continue to stand by Iraq.

“We will defeat evil at its roots. I would like to thank Mustafa Al Kadhimi for reviewing the initiative that we launched together a month after my visit to Baghdad,” he said.