ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani thanked the French president for breaking a "diplomatic embargo" that was imposed by Baghdad after the Iraqi military incursion into the disputed areas in October, according to a KRG statement.
PM Barzani welcomed FM Jean-Yves Le Drian and a French delegation at Erbil International Airport on Monday evening, the first visit by a high ranking French official to the capital since the independence referendum.
He "once again thanked President [Emmanuel] Macron who became the first one to receive a delegation of the Kurdistan Region
in Paris following the October tensions, breaking the political and diplomatic embargo that was imposed on the Kurdistan Region," read the statement published following a meeting between the French delegation and senior KRG officials including PM Barzani and Deputy PM Qubad Talabani.
France and the Kurdistan Region enjoy strong relations that go back decades. PM Barzani visited Elysee Palace in December at the invitation of President Macron, his first foreign visit after the September 25 vote for independence.
On Monday, Barzani and Le Drian discussed bilateral relations, existing talks between Erbil and Baghdad, and the role of France in helping to rebuild areas damaged by the ISIS war, Ali Dolamari, the KRG representative to France who attended the meeting, told Rudaw.
Le Drian welcomed the resumption of talks between Erbil and Baghdad, a statement from the French Foreign Ministry stated.
He "reaffirmed France's hope that an agreement can be swiftly reached while ensuring respect for the Iraqi constitution and the rights of the Kurds," the French statement explained.
It said that he will urge Iraq to take the path to "national reconciliation" and continue to make efforts to establish an inclusive government that meets the aspirations of all Iraqi components "in particular the Iraqi Kurds."
He was also scheduled to meet with representatives of the Yezidi community who have been persecuted at the hands of ISIS.
The KRG's head of foreign relations, Falah Mustafa, and chief of staff to the presidency, Fuad Hussein, among others, attended the meeting today.
It is the second high profile visit from Europe in two days. German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen was in Erbil on Sunday where she inspected training provided to the Peshmerga by the German military.
Le Drian visited Baghdad earlier on Monday where he met with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim al-Jaafari.
Abadi and Le Drian discussed enhanced cooperation with the French minister confirming France's continued support for Iraq during the reconstruction phase, according to a statement from Abadi's office.
Le Drian will be in Kuwait on Tuesday to attend the donor conference for reconstruction in Iraq.
Macron, when he received PM Barzani and his deputy Talabani in December, set a number of terms for talks to begin between the Kurdish and Iraqi governments to resolve their issues in light of the Iraqi constitution and expressed France's readiness to facilitate talks.
Barzani and Abadi have met twice since the Paris visit, but the two sides are yet to reach an agreement over challenging issues such as oil, the KRG's share of the budget, and the disputed areas.
Le Drian last visited the Kurdistan Region in late August, almost a month before the referendum.