French FM Jean-Yves Le Drian meets with KRG PM Nechirvan Barzani in the Kurdistan Region capital of Erbil on January 14, 2019. Photo: KRG
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — France's top diplomat met with Kurdistan Regional Government PM Nechirvan Barzani in Erbil where they discussed continued bilateral relations, the formation of the next KRG, lasting defeat of ISIS, and Baghdad.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian expressed his country's support to the Kurdistan Region, according to a readout from Barzani's office on Monday
The French minister additionally expressed his pleasure over his visit to Erbil. He also hoped for better relations between Baghdad and Erbil.
For his part Barzani thanked France for its continued support for the Kurdistan Region as it assisted Erbil in the fight against ISIS within the framework of the international coalition.
Barzani hailed French President Emmanuel Macron for maintaining relations with the Kurdistan Region during what he described as tough times and for Paris encouraging dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad.
KRG Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani also attended the meeting to discuss ongoing cabinet formation efforts in Erbil.
Le Drian also met Kurdistan Region Security Council head Masrour Barzani and KDP President Masoud Barzani in Erbil.
Masrour Barzani called his meeting with Le Drian productive and appreciated the partnership.
Masoud Barzani greeted Le Drian in Erbil on Tuesday.
Masoud Barzani thanked Paris for its support through difficult times in the Kurdistan Region.
"The President made reference to the fact that the French government was supportive of the Kurdistan Region during some of the most challenging times in our recent history," read a statement from Masoud Barzani's office.
They also touched on the impending US pullout in Syria and Turkish threats of action.
They "agreed that the Kurds of Syria should not be victimized due to political agreements between the various powers involved in Syria," read Masoud Barzani's statement.
They spoke about "improved" relations between Erbil and Baghdad.
"Minister Le Drian stated that the new Iraqi government and President Barzani's recent visit to Baghdad have paved the path for a brighter future between Erbil and Baghdad," according to Masoud Barzani's office.
Masoud Barzani said he will continue to support Iraqi PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi "in pursuit of the mutual benefit for the people of the Kurdistan Region and Iraq" while expressing "optimism."
"My visit was a friendly, honorable and loyal visit. It was to pay respect to Kurds and Kurdistan. In my previous when I was visiting the Kurdistan Region, ISIS was so close and had large territories under its control. The Peshmerga was in conflict against ISIS and played a pivotal role in the fight,” said Le Drian.
He described relations between Paris and Erbil as being "historic."
"President Barzani has had strong relations with French presidents. I also have had the chance to enjoy very friendly relations with President Barzani,” said Le Drian.
He was optimistic about relations between the KRG and central government.
"Erbil-Baghdad relations now are much better and have stemmed from legitimacy. After the Iraqi and Kurdistan Region elections, a new government in the Kurdistan Region is in the making and a new opportunity has come forward for the resumption of fresh dialogue between Erbil and Baghdad,” said Le Drian.
France has been a staunch supporter of the Kurdistan Region prior to and through the ISIS conflict.
Paris was instrumental in the establishment of the no-fly zone that allowed de facto semi-autonomy from Baghdad and shielded Kurds from the previous regime's massacre nearly 30 years ago.
Le Drian first visited Iraqi officials in Baghdad on Monday.
Update: 12:56 p.m.