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Ministry for Foreign Affairs

Iceland and Iraq: Focus on humanitarian affairs

PRESS RELEASE
from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs


No. 93/2007

Ms. Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, the Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs decided this June to withdraw the only member of Icelandic Crisis Response Unit (ICRU) from Iraq. The staff member serves in Baghdad as an Information and Press Officer under the command of the NATO Training Mission in Iraq. (NTM-1). The decision, which will be implemented on 1 October, was made on the recommendation of a field report on Iceland’s peacekeeping policy conducted last May. The report concluded that it was not advisable to have only one staff member and that the number of ICRU staff should either be increased, or withdrawn.

The aim of the NATO Training Mission in Iraq (NTM- I) is to train senior ranks in the Iraqi military, and to develop the Iraqi army’s staff college. The post of Information and Press Officer at NTM-I is the only post filled ICRU which is not classified as ‘development cooperation’ under international guidelines.

The Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs will nonetheless continue to participate in humanitarian and reconstruction activities in Iraq. The Minister has decided to provide support to a project launched by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Red Cross to improve the conditions of Iraqi refugees and civilians in Iraq. Representatives of both bodies met with the Minister during a visit to Jordan in July.  

A contribution of ISK 10 million will be made to a joint UNHCR/UNICEF project to help children among Iraqi refugees in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. The UNHCR and UNICEF have warned that a whole generation of Iraqi children are growing up uneducated and neglected. Half a million Iraqi refugee children are believed to have no access to schools; the project aims to address this problem, and also to provide special support to families which have suffered unusual hardships.

In addition, the International Red Cross has been allocated a supplementary contribution of ISK 7 million because of the deteriorating situation of Iraqi civilians. According to information from the Red Cross, civilians in Iraq are living in conditions of continual violence and insecurity. Fatalities are rising, increasing numbers of people are forced to flee their homes, people lack the necessities of life, and basic services are inadequate. The International Committee of the Red Cross is working closely with the Red Crescent in Iraq, and the bulk of the supplementary contribution will be devoted to assistance for the elderly, the disabled and orphans.

The UN estimates that over four million Iraqis have fled their homes due to the conflict in the country in recent years: about two million are internally displaced within Iraq, while another two million have left the country.



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