January 19, 2019

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Press conference at the Iraqi Embassy in The Hague: an update on the situation in Iraq

On the picture the Ambassador of Iraq, H.E. Dr.  Hisham Al- Alawi and  Consul Mr. Saad Al-Johashi.

By Guido Lanfranchi.

On Tuesday May8th, H.E. Dr. Hisham Al-Alawi, Ambassador of Iraq to the Netherlands, updated the press and diplomats from other Embassies about the current situation in Iraq, the country’s preparation for the upcoming elections, and the bilateral relations between Iraq and The Netherlands.

Just a few weeks after the presentation of his diplomatic credentials, H.E. Dr. Al-Alawi  is already fully active in representing Iraq in The Netherlands. In a press conference held on Tuesday morning at the Iraqi Embassy, the Ambassador updated the press and the diplomatic community of The Hague on three main issues: the current political, economic, and security situation in Iraq; the preparation for the upcoming elections of May 12th, and the bilateral relations between Iraq and The Netherlands.

The Ambassador opened the press conference with an update of the current situation in Iraq. Concerning security issues, he stressed that “no single village or town is now under the control of Daesh,” and that this “victory in Iraq against Daesh is a victory for everyone,” and not only for the Iraqi people. H.E. Dr. Al-Alawi also mentioned the stabilization and reconstruction efforts, which have been estimated to amount to US$ 100 billion. In doing so, the Ambassador welcomed the help pledged by the international community during the recent Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq, which took place in February 2018.

However, H.E. Dr. Al-Alawi stressed, in order to effectively tackle the root causes of terrorism, Iraq and the region need not only security and reconstruction efforts, but also a broad, comprehensive socio-economic strategy. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi recently promoted such a strategy in a regional tour, during which he visited his counterparts in several countries in the region.

Al-Abadi’s strategy consists of five main points, namely: enhancing regional cooperation; strengthening people to people relations; looking after the youth; promoting sustainable development in the region; providing the right environment for minimizing the need for foreign intervention.

Re-shifting the focus more specifically on Iraq, H.E. Dr. Al-Alawi also described the Iraqi government’s efforts to recover from the 2014 economic crisis, reducing state expenditure and starting a process of diversification of the Iraqi economy.

H.E. Dr. Al- Alawi talking to one of the guests after the conference.

In order to break its dependency from oil revenues, the government has been trying to promote developments in other sectors, such as agriculture, industry, tourism, and in general it has been creating favourable conditions for the growth of the private sector. In particular, the Ambassador stressed Iraq’s potential as an attractive site for tourists, for both religious and historical purposes, and he repeatedly emphasized his optimism regarding the country’s future.

H.E. Dr. Al-Alawi then moved on to the topic of the forthcoming parliamentary elections, which will take place in Iraq on May 12th. He stressed the high level of political pluralism and participation in Iraq, as the country’s political scenario sees hundreds of political entities and tenths of political coalitions. For the upcoming elections, more than 6,000 candidates, at least one third of them being women, will be running for the 329 seats of the Council of Representatives, set to become a “representative, accountable Parliament” at the service of the Iraqi people. While over the past three weeks the candidates have been engaged in a serious, tough campaign, the Iraqi citizens will soon be in charge. On May 10th and 11th voters from abroad will cast their ballot, followed by their fellow citizens in Iraq on May 12th.

In The Netherlands, H.E. Dr. Al-Alawi and the staff of the Embassy will be in charge of granting the possibility to vote to the approximately 60,000 Iraqis living in Holland. While during previous elections the voters were allowed to cast their ballot only in one city, in the upcoming elections voters will be able to choose among four different locations: The Hague, Rotterdam, Eindhoven, and Groningen. Each location will have multiple voting stations, for a total of 21 stations over the whole country. Moreover, staff from the Iraqi government and from the Independent Electoral Commission will be deployed at the ballots, in order to help the voters while at the same time ensuring the fairness of the electoral process.

Over the past weeks, H.E. Dr. Al-Alawi illustrated, the staff of the Embassy has traveled across The Netherlands and organized several seminars and meetings on the upcoming elections. Iraqi citizens all over the country have responded positively, actively participating to the events and showing their interest. In the light of this manifestation of interest and of the increase of the voting stations across the country, the Ambassador expressed his wish that the turnout in the upcoming elections will be higher than that of the previous ones, during which approximately 5,000 Iraqis voted from The Netherlands.

Finally, the Ambassador decided to close the press conference by praising the good bilateral relationships between his country and The Netherlands. He stressed the importance of The Netherlands as a relevant player at the European and at the global level, especially in specific fields such as water management and counter-terrorism policies. In these two areas, the Ambassador praised the positive role played by two institutions based in The Netherlands, namely, the Institute for Water Education and the International Center for Counter-Terrorism, both very active in advising the policies of government worldwide.

As for economic issues, Dr. Al-Alawi also praised the good economic relationship between Iraq and The Netherlands, symbolized by the annual US$ 2 billion of trade between the two countries, and by the activity of Dutch private companies such as Shell and Philips. Concerning political matters, the Ambassador stressed the increasingly close relationship between Iraq and The Netherlands, highlighted by the high number of high-level meetings between the officials of the two countries. For instance, in July H.E. Ms. Sigrid Kaag, Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, is expected to visit Iraq, hopefully paving the way for a later visit by the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Stephanus Blok.

H.E. Dr. Hisham Al- Alawi, Ambassador of Iraq.

After the speech of the Ambassador, journalists were invited to ask questions. Different journalists and diplomats of other Embassies asked several questions, touching upon a variety of topics. Among the many, the Ambassador answered questions concerning: women and youth participation in the electoral process; the declarations of Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani regarding the upcoming elections; the security and socio-economic situation in different regions of Iraq; the concerns of human rights advocates on the trials of former Daesh members; the potential effect on Iraq deriving from the evolving international disputes concerning Iran. At the end of the press conference, H.E. Dr. Al-Alawi invited all the audience to enjoy a tasty reception kindly prepared by the Embassy.

A few days ahead of the opening of the ballots, Diplomat Magazine and the diplomatic community of The Hague wish the best of luck to all the Iraqi people for the upcoming elections!

For additional information:

Introducing H.E. Dr. Hisham Al-Alawi, the new Ambassador of Iraq to The Netherlands

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