ERBIL, Kurdistan Region— French President Francois Hollande arrived in the capital of the Kurdistan Region Erbil today where he was received by President Masoud Barzani and other top Kurdish officials, including military leaders on the frontline.
He later visited Peshmerga on the frontlines near Bashiqa with the Kurdish President Masoud Barzani.
President Hollande hailed the "remarkable" cooperation between his army and the Kurdish Peshmerga.
"The Peshmerga are making efforts and offering sacrifices to further defeat ISIS," Hollande said.
"The French army will continue with offering training, observation, and advice. It will also provide the necessary materials. This is the reason why I wanted to thank President Masoud Barzani for what he has done here and to tell him the cooperation between French forces and the Peshmerga is remarkable, and the same cooperation exists with the Iraqi forces. Thank you."
President Barzani told Rudaw TV that he had "a very good" meeting with his French counterpart.
"It certainly was very good. He commended the Peshmerga forces. He spoke highly of the bravery of the Peshmerga. He reaffirmed that he would continue to support the Peshmerga."
Masrour Barzani, chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council, while accompanying the French president to the Peshmerga frontline at Zerdki Mountain near Bashiqa, told Rudaw TV that this visit is significant for the Region, and that it shows the French appreciation for the Kurdish Peshmerga in their fight against ISIS.
“This is the second time he visits Kurdistan. The first time he came was when ISIS was very close to the Kurdistan capital. This time around though, ISIS faced a big defeat. This visit is to thank the Peshmerga, their sacrifices, and their role in defeating ISIS and the terrorists, not here alone, but [the terrorists] are a threat to other countries, in particular France which has become their target many times.”
Masrour Barzani also commented on Kurdish aspirations for independence, and the French role in "past mistakes" against the Kurdish nation.
“France is one of the countries which had a role in creating [the current] borders in Sykes-Picot agreement. We hope for this agreement to be changed now, to help the Kurdish nation more--not to repeat the past mistakes--and compensate the Kurds.”
Former French Consul General in Erbil Frederic Tissot told Rudaw that the main aim of Hollande’s visit is to see and hear the latest about the ongoing Mosul offensive.
Tissot added that Hollande would reiterate France’s support for the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in their fight against ISIS.
“The president will reaffirm the commitment of French forces within the international coalition in the fight against Daesh (ISIS),” said a statement from Elysee palace on Hollande’s Monday visit to Iraq and Kurdistan Region.
This is Hollande’s second visit to the Kurdistan Region since the start of the war with ISIS. His first visit was in September 2014.
France has been one of the main backers of the Kurdish forces in the war against ISIS in the last two years and the country maintains a consulate general in Erbil and a cultural center.
Kurdish political leaders, chief among them President Barzani, and military leaders have also maintained regular visits to the French capital in the past several years.
Barzani last met with Hollande in Paris last September.
The French presidency said in a statement, according to Le Monde: “He will insist on the importance of continuing efforts to ensure a lasting security of the country after the defeat of Daesh and the coexistence of the communities in a united and sovereign Iraq,”
Hollande also visited French Special Forces stationed near Baghdad International Airport.