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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

British Prime Minister vows to ramp up counter-terror effort on surprise trip to Iraq

Theresa May met Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi in Baghdad on Wednesday

British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke with British soldiers at the Camp Taji military base. Leon Neal/ Getty Images
British Prime Minister Theresa May spoke with British soldiers at the Camp Taji military base. Leon Neal/ Getty Images

British Prime Minister Theresa May paid a surprise visit on Wednesday to Baghdad where she met her Iraqi counterpart Haider Al Abadi and British troops stationed at Camp Taji.

Mrs May's visit came after Iraqi forces backed by an international coalition including Britain ousted the ISIL from swathes of Iraq it had controlled since 2014.

Mr Abadi's press secretary Haidar Hamada said Mrs May had confirmed Britain's "great support for Iraq and its admiration for Iraqi victories and great courage" in the battle against ISIL.

The meeting also came two months after Iraqi Kurds overwhelmingly voted for independence in a referendum bitterly contested by Baghdad.

Mr Hamada said the British premier had "reiterated her support for the unity of Iraq".

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The leaders also discussed "efforts to restore stability and economic cooperation while respecting the unity of Iraq and its constitution," he added.

Speaking to 80 troops at Taji, Mrs May said that the UK remained committed to the evolving threat from ISIL.

“Daesh’s [ISIL] ability to spread propaganda at speed drew terrorists to Iraq and Syria from around the world, contributing to the death of many thousands of innocent people and the destruction of Iraqi infrastructure,” the British Prime Minister said.

“Military success against Daesh means they are increasingly losing control of the territory, resources and population that allowed them to be a uniquely dangerous threat to Iraq, the region and Europe.

“But we have always expected that the threat Daesh posed would evolve. In response to our military success, Daesh has become more diffuse, organic and networked. The UK is committed not only to defeating Daesh militarily but also to countering the dispersal of foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria.”