On Friday, 22 April, Estonia’s Permanent Representative at the UN Tiina Intelmann and Iraqi representative at the UN Ambassador Samir Shakir Mahmood Sumadaie signed an agreement establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries in New York.
Estonian Ambassador to the UN Tiina Intelmann stated that Estonia’s relations with Iraq have in reality existed for some time already. Estonia’s and the international coalition’s mission is more significant than ever – a new, democratic Iraq has to be rebuilt. “Also here Estonia can lend assistance primarily through the UN activities,” Ambassador Intelmann noted. Recently, the UN Security Council emphasised that all layers of the Iraqi population would like to see a stronger UN involvement in rebuilding Iraq. Estonia intends to offer experts to the UN working group helping write the Iraqi Constitution.
The Republic of Iraq recognised the Republic of Estonia on 1 January 1992. On 5 August 2004, the Government gave instructions to establish diplomatic relations with the Republic of Iraq. Estonian Defence Minister Margus Hanson visited Iraq from 2-6 November 2004, meetings with Iraqi Defence Minister Hazim al-Shalaani and Commander of the Coalition Forces General George Casey. The Defence Minister also met with the Estonian light infantry platoon ESTPLA-9 and the Estonian cargo handling team CT-3.
On 20 June 2003, 43 Estonian servicemen were sent to Iraq on a 6-month peace support operation. In the second half of last year, the fourth replacement team consisting of 32 servicemen was sent to Iraq. Three staff officers are also serving in Iraq. In spring 2005, the Iraqi Prime Minister sent a letter to the Estonian Prime Minister asking to extend the mandate of Estonian servicemen for another year. On 20 April 2005, the Riigikogu decided to extend the mandate of the Estonian servicemen until the end of this year.
Estonia has also made material contributions to the rebuilding of Iraq. In 2003, a donation was made to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for Iraqi humanitarian aid in the total amount of 1 million kroons. In 2004, a voluntary donation was made to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for purpose-oriented support to the rebuilding of Iraq in the amount of 500 000 kroons. An Estonian police instructor has also been sent on a mission to Jordan to train Iraqi policemen. 500 000 kroons were also donated to the UN for financing security forces in Iraq. Estonia donated 2 400 Kalashnikov automatic rifles originating from China and 1.1 million cartridges to Iraqi security agencies. Estonia has also sent a military instructor to the NATO Training Centre in Baghdad.