Check against delivery!
First of all let me say how pleased I am to welcome here in Brussels the Foreign Minister İbrahim Al Jafaari. We meet often but this time we met not only bilaterally but also with all our delegations to hold an EU-Iraq Partnership and Cooperation Agreement meeting and I would like in particular to recognise and welcome the presence in the Iraqi delegation also of Mr Falah Mustafa Bakir the Head of the Foreign Relations Department of the government of the Kurdistan region. This, I think gives a signal of inclusiveness from the Iraqi delegation side that I believe it is precious and key for the present and the future of the country.
Obviously, in our talks today we discussed first of all the fight against Da’esh and the launch of the Mosul operation. This operation is crucial in the campaign to defeat Da’esh to support the Global Coalition against Da’esh which has played a major role in the preparation and in the conduction of this operation. The European Union as you know is part of this coalition with no military means but with humanitarian and stabilisation assistance and in these critical times the European Union reaffirmed that it stands firmly by the Iraqi authorities and by the Iraqi people.
There is a need to prioritize during the campaign on Mosul the protection of the civilian population. We agreed on that. We know also that the population of Mosul, a rich, complex, big city, is for the vast majority victim itself of Da’esh, so we agreed on the need to fully respect international humanitarian law and try to guarantee the protection of the civilian population of the city.
The EU actively supports this operation by for example providing humanitarian aid to Iraqi citizens who may be forced to flee internally as a result of the fighting covering both immediate needs and long-term needs such as education for displaced children. I see in the room, but sitting in the back, the Commissioner [for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management] Christos Stylianides who was with us during the meeting. We have provided so far €134 million for the humanitarian aid in Iraq. Correct me if the numbers are wrong, €50 million of which for Mosul, so the European Union is fully by Iraqi side in this crucial, crucial campaign.
We also play a role in the stabilisation of the liberated areas as soon as the campaign is over for sure in Mosul. We know that stabilisation after the military campaign is as important as the military campaign itself and we are focusing in particular on the removal of the IEDs [Improvise Explosive Device] which is a pre-condition for the return of the Internally Displaced People and on the efforts for stabilisation of the liberated areas in general terms.
We discussed this at length, preparing for the day after of what hopefully will be a successful campaign. We also discussed the process of peace building and reconciliation in a unified, inclusive Iraqi state. Inclusiveness in this context means obviously not just political but economic and social inclusiveness and I am encouraged by the steps that the government is taking in this respect.
We also address the regional dynamics, the relations of Iraq with its neighbours, the situation in Syria especially after the Foreign Affairs Council we had yesterday in Luxembourg. We shared ideas and assessments on the state of play of the conflict and possible ways out and more in general the different relations in the region. You know that the European Union is strongly in favour of dialogue between all countries of the region, essential as we focus on the primary task of fighting and defeating Da’esh in an effective way.
I will stop here… sorry. I did not touch upon the fact that we had a fruitful meeting getting into the details of all bilateral relations from energy to trade, from human rights to humanitarian cooperation and many more other sectors where we took stock of the work done in these months and prepared the ground for further advancements on the different sectorial challenges of cooperation we have and obviously our experts on both sides will continue this work.
But obviously as this meeting happens exactly in the days that the Operation Mosul is launched there is a bigger political meaning of us being together here in Brussels today which is really showing our full support, our common work and the commitment to work together in the future because we know that what happens after the campaigns on the ground sometimes is even more important than campaigns itself but now the priority is to focus on the success of the military launch itself.
Q. On the Kurdish forces (Peshmerga) – any plan to support them?
A. There is an ongoing support by Member States that, as far as I am informed, concerns also this in the framework of the overall support to the Iraqi armed forces and police forces. On the European Union's side, what we are doing is, as I explained, twofold: humanitarian support and a lot of that goes to the Kurdistan regional government areas – I visited myself some camps that are benefitting from that aid when I was visiting last time– and the work on the non-humanitarian support mainly stabilisation but also police training, demining, and some security-related support but not military as such. Thank you
Link to the video of the remarks: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I127797~
Link to the video of the Q/A: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/video/player.cfm?ref=I128016