Surprise Iraq visit as Pekka Haavisto heads to Baghdad for talks

The visit comes a few weeks after Finland announced an increase in humanitarian assistance to help Iraq's struggling healthcare system cope with the impact of coronavirus.

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Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) in his office at the Government Palace, Helsinki, 27th August 2019 / Credit: News Now Finland

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) has made a visit to Iraq which was not announced in advance for security reasons.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says Haavisto is meeting with Iraqi leaders “to establish relations with the new Iraqi government and to discuss current bilateral and regional issues.”

The minister is also formally opening the Finnish embassy in Baghdad, which resumed operations in autumn 2019 after a break of almost 30 years. Haavist also plans to meet with members of the small Finnish crisis management contingency in the north of the country.

“The details of the trip will only be announced after the trip for safety reasons” the ministry says.

File picture of women in Baghdad, summer 2019 / Credit: iStock

More Finnish coronavirus assistance

Earlier this summer Finland announced it was strengthening its humanitarian support for Iraq, with extra funding for healthcare initiatives.

There’s an extra €2 million being channeled through a United Nations agency to help the country’s health system, including buying personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, to increase capabilities for testing labs, and to increase the number of isolation wards for people who become sick.

“The coronavirus situation in this country is not very positive. The restrictions have been very strict from the beginning” Finland’s ambassador in Baghdad Vesa Häkkinen told News Now Finland in early July.

“The healthcare system here is non-existent. To be honest, it’s very problematic. After Saddam’s year’s, from 2003 and onwards, there hasn’t been too many improvements, and the structure has been very weak. People are struggling to improve the system” Häkkinen explained.

Finland has provided €11 million in aid to Iraq since 2011, and supports reconstruction in parts of the country that were liberated from Islamic State. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that terrorist organisation continue to be active in Iraq, trying to take advantage of the social and economic instability caused by the coronavirus pandemic.