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Swiss, Iraqi foreign ministers sign memorandum of understanding

The Swiss and Iraqi foreign ministers signed a memorandum of understanding in Baghdad on Saturday, agreeing to establish “political consultations” as part of developing ties between their nations.

Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis arrived in Baghdad on Saturday for a two-day visit, part of a Middle East tour that includes stops in Oman and Lebanon. He met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein and discussed “how [Switzerland] can help promote peace & security. We signed an MoU establishing regular political consultations between Switzerland & Iraq,” Cassis tweeted.

Switzerland does not have an embassy in Baghdad, its affairs are managed through the representation in Jordan, but it is “keen to establish a diplomatic representation” in Iraq, according to its foreign policy strategy. Cassis’ visit is the first for a member of Switzerland’s executive council to Iraq since 1979.

He will also meet young Iraqi entrepreneurs “to discuss innovation and what prospects there are for young people in this still fragile country,” according to a statement issued by the foreign ministry before his trip. The Swiss government has prioritized supporting youth employment through education and training.

Iraq has a large youth population. About a third of its 40 million people are between the ages of 10 and 24.

Youth unemployment is high, around 27 percent in 2019, according to UN figures. A UN survey published last month revealed “youth frustration with the lack of livelihood and employment opportunities, lack of cohesion in offer and demand for employment, lack of women participation in the labour market and lack of private-sector job opportunities.”

Unemployment was one of the factors behind the protest movement that began in October 2019. The situation worsened with the oil-dependent economy taking a massive hit when crude prices plummeted last year during a global shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Lockdowns within the country drove massive layoffs, especially in the service sector, which makes up about half of the non-oil economy, according to the UN.