Paris- French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Defense Minister Florence Parly arrived in Baghdad on Saturday before heading to Irbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region, in the framework of the French efforts to prepare for the post-ISIS phase, Iraqi military sources said.
At a joint press conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibarhim al-Jaafari, Le Drian uncovered France’s intentions in Iraq by saying: “We are present in war and we will be present in peace.”
Le Drian’s statement reveals that from one part, France wishes to contribute to the national reconciliation efforts in Iraq, but also to play a role in the reconstruction efforts estimated at between $700 and $1000 billion.
According to a foreign ministry statement, France will grant a 430 million euro loan to Iraq before the end of the year.
A French source close to the matter told Asharq Al-Awsat that Paris wants to reap the political, economic and financial fruits of what it cultivated in Iraq in the past three years, adding that its target is to build “long-term relations” with Baghdad at all levels.
Also, Paris sees that Iraq currently faces three main political challenges: “The Kurdish upcoming referendum and its repercussions at the regional and internal levels, the government’s capacity to implement a reconciliatory policy that could gather all elements of the Iraqi society, and finally an agreement on a structure to administer Mosul and Nineveh, both characterized by their religious diversity.”
According to Paris, the current blazing file is certainly the Kurdistan Region’s upcoming referendum on independence, scheduled for Sept. 25.
Similar to other regional and international parties, France sees in this referendum an “imminent threat,” and considers itself a “friend of the Kurds” since the 1990’s and of being capable to influence them.
However, Paris “supports the Kurdish rights of self-administration but in the framework of the current Iraqi Constitution.”