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Rudaw

Interview

Kurdistan is France’s gateway to Middle East, says KRG’s Paris rep

By Mahmood Y. Kurdi 18/12/2017
Ali Dolamari (L) shaking hands with French President Emmanuel Macron (R) during the KRG’s visit to Elysee Palace on December 2. Photo: Ali Dolamari twitter
Ali Dolamari (L) shaking hands with French President Emmanuel Macron (R) during the KRG’s visit to Elysee Palace on December 2. Photo: Ali Dolamari twitter
The French leadership, a staunch supporter of the Kurdistan Region, is “optimistic” about the possibility of talks being held between Erbil and Baghdad soon, though likely not before the end of the year, said Ali Dolamari, KRG representative to France.

France has taken the lead in trying to bring Iraq’s regional and federal governments to the negotiating table as French President Emmanuel Macron has given greater priority to France’s policy in the Middle East and restoring his country’s influence in the region. 

This involvement is not just at the political level, but Dolamari also predicts greater French business relations in the Kurdistan Region, including in the oil and gas sector, as Paris uses Kurdistan as a gateway to the rest of Iraq. 


Rudaw: What is the status of the French president’s initiative to resolve problems between Erbil and Baghdad? 

Ali Dolamari: The initiative presented by President [Emmanuel] Macron was very important for Kurds because it could break the embargo imposed on the Kurdistan Region. The invitation for the Kurdistan Region’s delegation was an important opportunity to discuss the situation in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region with the French president. Inviting Abadi for the climate summit was an initiative to encourage him to hold talks with Erbil, otherwise Iraq has no impact on climate and environmental policies. According to information obtained from Elysee Palace and the French Foreign Ministry, there will be positive signs, even if talks are not held by

 

  The security of France and the European Union will be in danger if there is no stability and reconciliation in Iraq  

New Year. The French are optimistic about the commencement of talks, according to our contacts. 

What has made France so serious about the issue of the Kurdistan Region? 

The role of France in the Middle East was about to vanish, but Macron paid more attention to the French policy in the area after he assumed office as president. Iraq was previously under the influence of the UK, and France [had influence] in Syrian and Lebanon. But Lebanon is currently under the influence of Russia. That is why France wants to restore its role in the Middle East through Kurdistan. 

We shouldn’t forget that France paid the heaviest price in the fight against ISIS. Many explosions and terrorist acts happened in France’s big cities. That is why the threat of terrorism still remains in France. The security of France and the European Union will be in danger if there is no stability and reconciliation in Iraq. The Kurdish question in France is important and sensitive. Former French president [Francois Hollande] visited the Kurdistan Region twice. They invited a high delegation from the KRG to France despite obstacles and opposition. Germany then decided to welcome the KRG. I think Turkey too will welcome the KRG in a near future.

What are France’s economic interests in the Kurdistan Region? 

French companies know that this country was destroyed after ISIS was defeated. They want to participate in the process of reconstructing Iraq. France didn’t take part in rebuilding Iraq after the collapse of Saddam’s regime, which was a big loss to Paris.

 

  [Total] is due to meet with the KRG again and sign a new agreement  

Now they don’t want to lose this opportunity, and the Kurdistan Region is a calm place for French companies that cannot go to Baghdad. 

Why did the French oil company Total halt its work in Kurdistan? 

There are 30 French companies and 300 French citizens working in the Kurdistan Region. Some of the work done by Total Company has halted because of the war on ISIS. The company examined and explored some areas, but didn’t find oil. That is why the company is due to meet with the KRG again and sign a new agreement. 

There are good economic and trade relations between the Kurdistan Region and France. France wants to open a businesspersons club in the Kurdistan Region. A delegation of French companies is due to visit the Kurdistan Region in the near future, including Total Company so that they can resume their work now that ISIS has been defeated. They especially want to participate in rebuilding the entire Iraq through opening their offices in Erbil.

Were there impediments for the visit by the KRG delegation to Paris?  

The Iraqi government through its foreign ministry makes obstacles for all KRG representation offices so that these countries deal with

 

  France needs the airports to reopen too  

Iraq through its embassies rather than Kurdistan’s representation offices. 

The Iraqi embassy in France had contacted the French foreign ministry urging them to close the KRG representation office [in Paris]. But fortunately French officials had said they’ve had relations with the Kurdistan Region since 1992 and have relations with the Kurdistan Region as a federal region within the framework of the Iraqi constitution since 2005. 

What does France intend to do to lift the international flight ban imposed on Kurdistan? 


Dialogue should first start between Baghdad and Erbil, and then the airports should be reopened. According to international law, airports shouldn’t be closed for humanitarian purposes. There are many IDPs and refugees in the Kurdistan Region and they need assistance. In France, we met with the humanitarian organizations helping out the refugees. 

France needs the airports to reopen too because they are experiencing too many problems and obstacles getting visas in order to deliver their aid to refugees. The air and land ports are therefore expected to reopen by the end of this year. If Abadi doesn’t respond

 

  It was the first time the Kurdistani flag was hung and Kurdish language was used at Elysee Palace  

to the initiative made by France and the international community, he will lose international support and cannot become prime minister again. The west wants Abadi to become prime minister again in order to minimize Iranian influence. 

Many people had negative observations about Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and his Deputy Qubad Talabani standing next to each other at the news conference they held with the French president at Elysee Palace. Why do you think this was? 

The appearance was normal from a diplomatic standpoint and it was at a request made by France. It was the first time the Kurdistani flag was hung and Kurdish language was used at Elysee Palace. Through this, France conveyed a message to Kurdistan, that they should be united and should get their house in order. It also sent a message to Baghdad that Paris supports the Kurds and that Iraq should give them all their legitimate and constitutional rights. It was also a message to the world that the Kurds are unanimous and are getting their house in order again. 
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