He will also have private meetings with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi and Iraqi President Barham Salih, in addition to a meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the leader of Shia Muslims in Iraq, and Kurdistan authorities in Erbil.
Following a rocket attack on Erbil on Feb. 15, rumors circulated in Arabic media that the pope's trip would be postponed due to security concerns and the coronavirus outbreak. Archbishop Mitja Leskovar, the Vatican's ambassador in Baghdad, released a statement the following day denouncing the rumors as "fake news."
A Shiite militant group calling itself Saraya Awliya al-Dam, or the Guardians of Blood Brigade, claimed responsibility for this week's attack.
The Islamic State, a Sunni jihadist group, claimed last month's suicide bombings in Baghdad that killed 32 people.
Security continues to be a major challenge facing Iraq, according to the report, which says that Islamic State continues to operate and destabilize the country, while Iran-backed militias also contribute to the current "unstable security situation."
In a United Nations Security Council meeting on Feb. 10, Vladimir Voronkov, the UN counter-terrorism chief, said that the threat posed by Islamic State terrorist fighters is "on the rise again."
He added that some 10,000 fighters, mostly in Iraq, are pursuing a protracted insurgency posing "a major, long-term and global threat."
Ambassador Huth said: "I do not need to touch upon the importance for the international coalition against Daesh [Islamic State] to remain in Iraq, as this is evident to all."
"What is also evident is that Iraq must not be the permanent proxy battlefield it has so often been. Yesterday's attack on coalition facilities in Erbil was another reminder of this."
Iraq borders Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, and Kuwait. The Iraqi government is currently attempting to strike an equilibrium and balance in its foreign policy, according to the ambassador, who said that "due to its geographic position Iraq … needs to maintain its best possible relations with all of its neighbors."
"And while international focus is too often elsewhere, for example on Syria and Iran, this country needs active attention and support in view of both the positive and negative potential it holds," he said.
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