The European Union launched trade and cooperation talks with Baghdad Monday, three years after the block was split over the war in Iraq. The talks will likely be a lengthy process.
The talks aim to clinch a trade and cooperation agreement that would cover goods and services. The deal would also offer European Union cooperation on a wide variety of issues - from human rights and antiterrorism, to energy and the environment.
At a press conference in Brussels, EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson said Europe is committed to helping Iraq.
"The Iraqi people should have renewed confidence that Europe stands full square behind them [the Iraqi people] and the determination of their government to rebuild Iraq, drive forward the process of economic, social and political reform," said Peter Mandelson. "The Iraqi people should also know that our commitment is for the full journey and not just for part of the journey."
But Mandelson warned the negotiations will be lengthy and difficult. Human rights is one potential sticking point - and European Union officials reportedly told Iraq they would seek certain commitments during the talks, including a ban on capital punishment.
The EU was bitterly divided over the war in Iraq. And while many European leaders praised the trial against former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, they criticized the death verdict.
Despite the differences, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh said EU support was vital.
"Iraq is going through a tough transition and none of us want to underestimate the difficulties and the challenges we are faced with," said Barham Saleh. "The challenges of terrorism, the challenges of extremism. But Iraq has nowhere to go but to succeed. In that difficult journey that we have embarked on, we need partners, and Im so gratified to hear that the EU will be with us for the journey."
So far, the EU has earmarked more than $900 million in reconstruction aid to Iraq since 2003. The new agreement should increase European assistance to Baghdad.