The Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares, today begins a tour of the Middle East that will first take him to Lebanon, then to Iraq, where he will hold meetings at the highest level with the aim of boosting the chances of achieving a regional de-escalation that will result in greater stability in the area.
Albares, who begins this tour after participating in the Foreign Affairs Council held yesterday in Brussels, where the Middle East was a leading item on the agenda at the meeting of European Ministers, will insist on the need to secure the two-State solution through the convening of an International Peace Conference with the parties as soon as possible.
The Minister’s goals for this trip include working for peace, security, stability and prosperity in the region, which Spain contributes to through UNIFIL peace missions and security support in Iraq.
Beirut will be the first stop on this trip, a first for a Minister for Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation since 2020. Albares is scheduled to meet with Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, with whom he agreed the details of this visit just a few days ago when they met at the Davos summit in Switzerland.
Minister Albares will also take the opportunity to see first-hand the environment that Spanish troops operate in and to recognise the work they carry out in the region in close collaboration with the Lebanese army, whose leaders he will also meet. The Spanish contribution, with 656 military personnel, is key for UNIFIL, now under the command of Spanish General Aroldo Lázaro.
A ‘Priority Country’ for Cooperation
Albares is also particularly interested in meeting with the heads of the Spanish NGDOs present in the country, and wishes to convey the Spanish Government's support for their extraordinary work under very difficult conditions. In 2023, Spain doubled its contributions to Lebanon to 6.5 million euros, and the country is expected to be included as a priority country for Spanish Cooperation in the 2024 Master Plan.
Baghdad will be the second stop on the tour, beginning at the Union III base, where he will meet with the Spanish military authorities and receive an update on the mission that Spain is carrying out in Iraq, both in the framework of the Global Coalition Against Da'esh and in the context of the NATO Mission in Iraq, which provides training and capacity building for members of the Ministries of Defence and the Interior.
The Minister will later hold meetings with the Iraqi authorities, including his Iraqi counterpart, Fuad Hussein, with whom he will review bilateral relations between the two countries, and the situation in the region, affected by the conflict in Gaza. Albares will also meet with President Rachid and Prime Minister Al Soudani to follow up on the visit to Iraq by the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, on 27 December, which served to boost relations between the two countries.