M J Akbar to travel to Lebanon, Syria, Iraq

New Delhi: In his first official visit, Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar will travel to Lebanon, Syria and Iraq from August 17-23 during which he will discuss with the West Asian leadership key security issues, including threat by the Islamic State and the 39 Indians who were taken hostage in war-hit Mosul.

This was announced by External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup, who said the visit to these three important countries in West Asia is a reaffirmation of India’s deep interest in promoting bilateral relations as also in the peace and security in the region in its extended neighbourhood.

The Spokesperson also said that the minister’s visit will also give India an opportunity to have first-hand assessment of evolving security situation in that region.

Asked if the issue of Indians, who were taken hostage in war-hit Iraq by the Islamic State in 2014, will figure during minister’s talk, Swarup said the issue has been always raised by India during its interaction with the leaders and other interlocutors. “It is but natural that it will be discussed during minister’s visit,” he added.

Terming the Islamic State as that biggest “security threat”, he said the minister will discuss it during his meetings.

In Lebanon, Akbar is expected to meet the top leadership including President of the Council of Ministers (Prime Minister) of Lebanon Tammam Salam and will have extensive discussions with the Lebanese leadership covering bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest.

In a continuing dialogue process with the leadership of Syria, the minister will pay a courtesy call on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Prime Minister Emad Mohammad Deeb Khamis.

Among others, Akbar will also interact with the Grand Mufti of Syria Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun during this visit. “The discussions would focus on our bilateral cooperation and the unfolding security situation in the region,” Swarup added.

During his visit to Iraq, he would hold discussions with Foreign Minister of Iraq Ibrahim Al-Eshaiqer Al-Jafari on bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest.

“Our time-tested, warm and friendly relations with Iraq are underpinned by historical and religious linkages, strong people-to-people contacts, our energy security quest and capacity-building cooperation. The visit is expected to add further impetus to our bilateral engagement.

“It will also provide an opportunity to meet other senior leaders of Iraq, including religious leaders, and to convey India’s abiding commitment to the emergence of a stable, peaceful, united and democratic Iraq, which is in the interest of regional and global peace and security,” the Spokesperson said.