Promoting peace and security in the Middle East is one of the main priorities set out in the Federal Council's MENA Strategy. During the talks, Mr Cassis reaffirmed Switzerland's commitment to reducing regional tensions. "In the past, Iraq has often been the first casualty of any confrontation between the United States and Iran. Switzerland will continue to play a constructive role in Iraq and the region in promoting dialogue," explained Cassis. The Iraqi government officials welcomed Switzerland's commitment to the country, particularly in the area of water diplomacy. With its Blue Peace initiative, Switzerland aims to encourage cooperation between countries in the region on the joint management of water resources.
Humanitarian aid and strengthening bilateral relations
While in Baghdad, the head of the FDFA underlined Switzerland's humanitarian commitment to Iraq. After the devastation caused by the 'Islamic State' group, there are still four million people in need of assistance in the country. Since 2014, Switzerland has contributed more than CHF 80 million. The official talks also addressed migration issues and the two countries' wish to strengthen bilateral cooperation in this area.
During the visit, Mr Cassis and his counterpart Fuad Hussein signed a memorandum of understanding establishing political consultations between Switzerland and Iraq, signalling their intention to strengthen bilateral relations. Mr Cassis also discussed the possibility of reopening a Swiss embassy in Iraq. Switzerland closed its diplomatic liaison office in Baghdad in 2008 for security reasons.
Finally, the head of the FDFA met with Cardinal Louis Raphaël I Sako, Patriarch of Babylon and head of the Chaldean Catholic Church. Discussions focused on interfaith dialogue and the situation for minorities in the region.
Young people and innovation
Iraq has a young, well-educated population, which nevertheless is desperate for career opportunities. While in Baghdad, Mr Cassis met a number of young entrepreneurs from the Iraqi start-up scene. Discussions focused mainly on innovation, vocational education and the obstacles faced by young entrepreneurs. "For me, youth is synonymous with new beginnings and optimism. Talking to young Iraqis, so full of ideas and potential, makes me optimistic that this country will recover from all the crises it has had to face," stated Cassis. The meeting took place in a stadium designed by Swiss architect Le Corbusier in the 1950s.