Joint Press Release by the National Security Adviser of Iraq and the EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator at the occasion of the third Euro-Mediterranean FOREIGN FIGHTERS MEETING, BAGHDAD 27-28 OCTOBER

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The Republic of Iraq represented by the National security advisory and the ministry of foreign affairs  in cooperation  with the  European Union hosted the third meeting of senior counter-terrorism experts from the Euro-Mediterranean region between 27-28 October to discuss the question of foreign terrorist fighters. The event was co-chaired by Dr. Safaa Al-Shaikh, Deputy National Security Adviser for Iraq, and Gilles de Kerchove, European Union Counter-Terrorism Coordinator.

Participants acknowledged the scale of the threat foreign terrorist fighters present to the people of Iraq, to the region and to Europe. They also recognized that this was now a global phenomenon: latest UN figures show that foreign terrorist fighters are drawn from over half of the world’s countries and the numbers are rising exponentially. Participants shared their assessment of the threat of foreign fighters and discussed best practices and challenges in the areas of strategic communications, information sharing and the criminal justice response.

In order to tackle the threat this presents to global security, participants highlighted the importance to reinforce their cooperation in the following areas:

– strategic communications and the design of effective narratives to counter the propaganda promoted by terrorist groups such as DAESH .

– improved information sharing between relevant law enforcement and national security bodies including information sharing through connection as distinct from collection.

– and effective implementation of UN resolutions in respect of foreign terrorist fighters, particularly UNSCR 2178, including the criminal justice response.

Speaking at the end of the meeting, Dr. Safaa Al-Shaikh, Deputy National Security Adviser for Iraq, said: “there is no doubt the foreign fighter phenomenon represents a high level of risk in Iraq, across the region, to the European Union and the World at large. It requires serious cooperation between all nations to counter this threat and to take lawful and effective measures to minimise recruitment and to safeguard vulnerable elements of society, most particularly the youth from being drawn to violence and extremism”.

Mr Gilles de Kerchove, EU Counter-Terrorism Coordinator said: “Foreign fighters are a serious and urgent threat for the EU and for our partners around the Mediterranean. It is a priority for the EU to address this threat and to step up counter-terrorism cooperation with our partners in the region. It is important that we learn from each other and work together effectively. I commend the efforts of the governments of the region to address this threat.”

Participants agreed to review progress on all of these issues at a further meeting to take place in 2016. For the first time, a meeting will also take place at ministerial level in 2016.

The meeting was attended by senior officials from Algeria, Belgium, Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Netherlands, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.

Representatives from the European External Action Service, EUROPOL, UNDP and United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime also joined the meeting.

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