“No neutrality in the face of terrorism and barbarism”
On the invitation of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Defence Ashton Carter, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz travelled to Washington D.C. from 20 to 22 July, where together with foreign and defence ministers of 40 selected states, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini and representatives from the United Nations and NATO he attended a conference of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. The meeting focuses on coordinating international and national measures against Islamism and terrorism. Austria contributes to the working groups on combatting Foreign Terrorist Fighters (FTFs) and on the stabilisation of the region. While the FTFs working group deals with action against radicalisation, preventing FTF travel and preparing strategies towards reintegrating returnees, the working group on the stabilisation of the region focuses on supporting the development of state infrastructure in the areas liberated from IS/Da’esh in Iraq.
“Terrorist attacks in recent weeks once again made it very clear that there can be no such thing as neutrality in the face of terrorism and barbarism. Austria, as a neutral country thus contributes to fighting ISIL at a humanitarian and political level. Some 5,000 Foreign Terrorist Fighters from Europe are actively involved in Syria and in Iraq as IS fighters, 300 of these came from Austria. Europe must counter terrorism pro-actively: at military level in Iraq, Syria and Libya, at police level against criminals and hate preachers and at a preventive level against the propagation of terrorists’ narratives and ideologies to prevent them from seducing even more young people. The main focus of our 2017 Chairmanship of the OSCE is thus on fighting terrorism and radicalisation, especially of young people”, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz pointed out.
At the Pledging Conference in Support of Iraq held simultaneously in Washington D.C., Austria held out the prospect of a further increase in funds to be made available for humanitarian assistance for the population in need in Iraq.
The situation in Iraq remains tense. According to the United Nations ten million people, equalling one third of the population, depend on humanitarian aid. On top of the 3.4 million internally displaced persons in Iraq, of which 950,000 come from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, there are another 250,000 registered Syrian refugees and 744,000 returnees to Iraq. The dramatic situation in Iraq has an impact on the refugee crisis. Since January 2016 alone, a total of 1,809 applications for asylum in Austria have been filed by Iraqis, making them the fourth largest group of asylum applicants in 2016 ranked by countries of origin.
Since the outbreak of the conflict in Syria in 2012, support provided by Austria to the region, i.e. Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey, Greece and Armenia, has totalled 42 million euros. In the context of his trip to Iraq in mid-July 2016, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz announced that Austria will continue to support the international community by providing further two million euros from the Foreign Disaster Relief Fund with a view to promoting resettlement projects in 2016. The focus of the efforts launched is on ensuring stabilisation of the northern Iraq crisis region and resettlement of returning refugees and internally displaced persons.
On the margins of the conference, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz met his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim Al-Jaafari and shared with him more detailed information on his trip to northern Iraq from 15 to 16 July. In the context of this trip, which also involved a visit of the Debaga camp for internally displaced persons, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz was able to gain a personal impression of the situation in Iraq and the use of humanitarian aid on the ground.
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