French FM in Baghdad to support Iraq, boost bilateral ties

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian arrived in Baghdad to discuss bilateral relations and confirm his country’s support to Iraq in its fight against the Islamic State (IS) terror group.

Upon his arrival on Thursday, Le Drian and his accompanying delegation met Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in the Green Zone here, where the two sides discussed the bilateral relations and issues of common concern, Xinhua news agency quoted a statement issued by al-Kadhimi’s media office as saying.

“The French role is of great importance in supporting Iraq through the international coalition in facing the terrorism and the remnants of IS militants,” al-Kadhimi said in the statement.

He extended an invitation to French President Emmanuel Macron to visit Iraq.

For his part, Le Drian confirmed that France, as a part of the international coalition to fight the IS, is ready to support Iraq to play its due role in the region, the statement added.

During the meeting, the two sides also discussed the issue of confronting the coronavirus pandemic, and how to benefit from the French experience in containing the disease.

A separate statement issued by the media office of Iraqi President Barham Salih said that he held a meeting with Le Drian to discuss the means of advancing bilateral cooperation, including in the economic and cultural fields.

Salih confirmed that Iraq was looking forward to the international community for protecting its sovereignty and territorial integrity, including exerting efforts “to stop the repeated Turkish military violations on Iraqi territory”, according to the statement.

The Iraqi President believed that it’s essential to continue cooperation internationally and regionally to achieve a complete victory in eradicating the hotbeds of terrorism and extremism, and drying up its sources.

Earlier in the day, Le Drian was received by his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein upon arrival, and the two held a meeting before appearing at a joint press conference.

“Our visit to Iraq aimed at supporting the Iraqi government to face the challenges, including supporting the security forces in the fighting against IS, and we won’t relent in front of our common enemy,” Le Drian told reporters.

He said that “there are disturbing signs of the return of the IS in Iraq, and we should not relent it”.

“The coalition’s aim at its core is to fight IS, and it should for no reason be derailed from this central mission,” he noted.

Le Drian also said that Iraq’s sovereignty is important and confirmed that his country is looking forward to seeing the country “restoring its pioneering role to create balance for the Middle East”.

As for the coronavirus pandemic, Le Drian told reporters that France is supporting Iraq in combating the disease.

For his part, Hussein said that Le Drian’s visit “comes at an important circumstance and amid many challenges, and is aimed at showing support to Iraq and to strengthen French-Iraqi relations”.

During his last visit to Iraq in October 2019, Le Drian held meetings with top officials to discuss bilateral cooperation and the means to end the threat of IS militants.

France is part of the US-led international coalition tasked with helping Iraqi security forces in the fight against IS militants by carrying out airstrikes against their positions in Iraq and Syria as well as providing military equipment and training.