ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – King Felipe VI of Spain arrived in Baghdad early Wednesday for the first visit to Iraq by a Spanish head of state in forty years, Madrid-based media reported.
The king is accompanied by the country’s Minister of Defense Margarita Robles, along with a number of military commanders, El Pais wrote. Spain is a member of the US-led international coalition against the Islamic State.
The monarch first met with the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force of Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTFOIR), US Lt. Gen. Paul J. Lacamera, and the head of the NATO Training and Capacity Building Mission in Iraq, British Maj. Gen. David Fortin.
The king later met with Iraqi President Barham Salih.
In what appears to be an unfortunate oversight, the Iraqi flag of the former Baathist government was displayed along with the Spanish flag as King Felipe arrived in Baghdad and stepped off his plane. That version of the national flag was the official banner of Iraq between 1963 and 1991.
The king is also scheduled to visit his country’s base in Bismaya, an area just southeast of Baghdad, according to El Pais. There are 551 Spanish military personnel stationed at the base, called Gran Capitan, where they provide training for Iraqi forces fighting against Islamic State militants.
Since the start of 2019, a number of regional and international leaders have visited Baghdad to meet with top Iraqi officials who seek to rebuild their country after a bloody three-and-a-half year war with the jihadist group that left entire towns and cities largely destroyed.
The Spanish newspaper added that this marks the second royal visit by Felipe VI to his country’s troops abroad, both in the Middle East. The first such trip was to Lebanon in 2015, where approximately 600 Spanish troops served as UN peacekeepers.
Editing by John J. Catherine