BAGHDAD - A Dutch former defence minister has been appointed as the United Nation's envoy to Iraq, to head a mission which plays an essential role in the country's political and economic spheres.

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert was named special representative and will head up the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), a statement from the organisation said on Saturday. She will replace Jan Kubis, a Slovak former foreign minister who took up the post in February 2015. During his tenure the mission tried to curb internal conflicts, such as the crisis which erupted between the autonomous Kurdish region and the central government in Baghdad. Hennis-Plasschaert, 45, served as the Netherlands' defence minister from 2012 until 2017. She was also a lawmaker in her home country and at the European Parliament, as well as working for the European Commission.

UNAMI was established in 2003 by a UN Security Council resolution, at the request of the Iraqi government, and the mission was expanded four years later.

It advises the government on matters including political dialogue and reconciliation, in addition to helping with elections and facilitating dialogue between Iraq and neighbouring countries.