Austria Reopens Embassy In Baghdad After 30 Years

(MENAFN- The Peninsula) AFP

Baghdad: Austria reopened its embassy in Iraq's capital Baghdad on Tuesday after a 30-year absence, in what was hailed as a sign of a return to stability.

"We are back and we mean business," Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg told the opening ceremony of the mission, located in the downtown Babylon Rotana Hotel.

Iraq is a "key country" in the region, he said during a joint press conference with his Iraqi counterpart, Fuad Hussein.

"It plays an extremely important role in the stability and security of the entire region."

Ten businesspeople joined him from companies ready to invest, he said, ranging from the energy, health and telsectors to transport and infrastructure.

These sectors are struggling in war-scarred Iraq, where many roads and the power grid are in disrepair.

"The strongest signal of trust is that 10 well-known Austrian companies are part of my delegation, who are ready to invest here, who are ready to build a business here," Schallenberg said.

According to the Austrian Economic Chambers, Austrian exports to Iraq last year rose to 94.5 million euros ($101 million), up 25 percent on year.

The Austrian minister also touched on irregular migration and said agreements were signed on the readmission of Iraqis residing illegally in Austria.

Vienna closed its embassy in Iraq in 1991, in the middle of the Gulf War.

Since then, the Austrian embassy in neighbouring Jordan took on the functions of the Baghdad embassy, although Vienna stresses that relations between Iraq and Austria "were never cut off".

Oil-rich Iraq, after more than four decades of conflicts, has returned to a level of stability but remains hounded by political turmoil and corruption.

Many Iraqis also decry what they see as the excessive influence of its neighbour Iran, whose presence is seen in armed factions and pro-Tehran political parties that support the current Iraqi government and dominate the parliament.


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