|08BERLIN1601||2008-12-01 13:54:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Berlin|
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1. (C) SUMMARY: German Minister of Foreign Affairs
Frank-Walter Steinmeier is planning to visit Iraq in January
2009 soon after President-Elect Obama's inauguration -- his
first visit as FM. According to the MFA, the visit comes on
the heels of positive news from Iraq regarding the security
and economic situation, as well as the election of Senator
Obama. The Maliki government's demonstration of strength,
the signing of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), and the
increase in economic and investment interest in Iraq over the
past year have opened the door to Steinmeier's visit -- his
first since hostilities began in 2003. Steinmeier intends to
enhance Germany's partnership with Iraq and demonstrate
Germany and Europe's desire to improve the transatlantic
relationship. The MFA noted that Germany is developing
additional ideas to assist with the Iraqi refugee issue.
Germany also continues to slowly rebuild its business ties.
STEINMEIER UPCOMING TRIP TO IRAQ
2. (C) PolOff met with Klemens Semtner, head of the German
MFA's Iraq Unit November 19 to discuss FM Steinmeier's
planned January 2009 visit to Iraq. This trip, still in its
planning stages, will include a one day visit to Baghdad with
a side trip to inaugurate the German Consulate General in
Erbil. While in Baghdad, Steinmeier plans to meet with
senior-level government officials to discuss German
engagement in Iraq including enhanced economic and business
ties and opportunities to implement "quick-impact projects"
(rather than offering additional financial contributions
which Semtner indicated were "unnecessary"). Semtner noted
that Iraqi PM Maliki's July 2008 visit to Berlin was a key
factor is gaining support within the GOG for this visit.
3. (C) Semtner noted that Maliki's strengthening of the Iraqi
government -- including the passage of the Provincial
Election Law and the SOFA -- and the decrease in violence
throughout the country are some of the reasons for planning
the trip now. He also noted an increase in German business
interest to re-enter the Iraqi market -- including the visit
of Germany's Minister of Economics Michael Glos to Iraq --
and a generally optimistic feeling that "the worst is behind
us." Without being pressed, Semtner also said that Germany,
and indeed Europe in general, will be re-examining Iraq with
an eye toward a renewed transatlantic relationship following
Senator Obama's win November 4.
4. (C) Semtner also confirmed that the German office in Erbil
will expand into a full Consulate General in early 2009.
Construction plans for the Consulate are currently
incomplete, however Steinmeier intends to hold a ceremony at
the future building site and tour the temporary building
Germany will use in the interim while there.
5. (C) According to Semtner, the German national 2009
elections in 2009 do not play a role in the timing and
decision for Germany to assess the situation in Iraq to
evaluate how it could provide effective assistance to the
country's reconstructive process. Indeed, he indicated both
major parties, Steinmeier's SPD and Chancellor Merkel's CDU,
are in agreement that now is the time to do more.
ASSISTANCE FOR IRAQI REFUGEES
6. (C) Semtner stated that Germany is no longer focusing
efforts to assist Christian refugees but will rather accept
those with the greatest need according to UNHCR criteria. He
did note, however, that the GOI's efforts to reintegrate
Christians into Iraqi society have been "helpful but
completely insufficient." As such, it is likely that the
majority of Iraqi refugees who settle in Germany will be
Christian. On November 21, German Federal Interior Minister
Schuble and his state-level counterparts agreed to accept
2,500 Iraqi refugees -- currently residing in Jordan and
Syria -- following an EU meeting on November 27 in Brussels.
7. (C) The MFA also announced November 20 that Germany will
increase humanitarian aid to Iraq by 500,000 euros --
bringing the total sum of aid to five million euros. Of
that, three million euros was channeled to the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to assist internally
and externally displaced Iraqis, one million euros was given
to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and numerous
German non-governmental organizations split the remaining one
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million euros. Since 2003, the MFA has provided over 27
million euros for human aid in Iraq.
ECONOMIC INTEREST INCREASES
8. (C) EconOff met with Middle East Office Director Dr.
Juergen Friedrich and Semtner on November 19 to discuss the
October visit of a delegation of German businessmen to Erbil
to evaluate prospects for German investment in Iraq. Over 50
German businesses were represented, most from
construction-related industries such as architecture,
engineering, consulting, management, logistics, and
9. (C) When asked about Germany's next step in its Iraq
engagement, Friedrich admitted that the Ministry of Economics
and MFA have yet to agree on a cohesive plan. One of the
challenges was deciding on how to balance a Kurdish region
versus Baghdad/other province focus. He said that Germany
would welcome a joint effort with the US on business and
investment in Iraq.
10. (C) Germany's main political parties and leaders seem to
agree: Germany is finally ready to increase engagement in
Iraq following five years of inconsequential movement.
Steinmeier, who is also the SPD candidate for Chancellor for
the September 2009 national elections, has heretofore moved
very cautiously in examining ways in which Germany could
improve engagement in Iraq. While we cannot expect any
dramatic change to Germany's opposition to
"boots-on-the-ground", the fact that increased German
engagement in Iraq is not expected to be politicized in the
2009 elections demonstrates a shift in Berlin's thinking on
this emotion-laden issue. We welcome opportunities to work
more closely with the German government and private sector to
increase German business' reengagement in Iraq. End comment.