The European Union and Iraq on Friday signed their first partnership agreement, a deal six years in the making, as part of a bid to strengthen ties between the two sides, dpa reported.
"Finally," Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari exclaimed after signing the pact with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
"It is a great day for my country," he later told reporters. "It is a historical event also ... Iraq, which used to be a pariah state and isolated with sanctions, (has managed) to come back and be reintegrated into the international community."
The so-called Partnership and Cooperation Agreement sets out the rules for EU-Iraq cooperation on issues such as trade, investment in the energy sector, human rights, the fight against terrorism and the modernization of Iraq's economy.
The two sides will now hold regular meetings aimed at exploring areas of mutual interest.
"That is what this agreement is all about - sealing our common wish to work together on a whole range of issues where we have much to gain," Ashton said.
The EU has contributed more than 1 billion euros (1.3 billion dollars) towards the reconstruction of Iraq since 2003, when the United States led an invasion into the country to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein.
"Iraq is a young democracy and the road ahead will not always be smooth," Ashton noted. "For me, this agreement is above all a symbol of the wish of the EU to be a positive partner for Iraq in its democratic efforts."
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