Iraq News - Local News - Baghdadpost

Macron talks nuclear energy and sovereignty during Iraq visit

During a visit to Baghdad on Wednesday, French President Emmanuel Macron discussed energy development and backed Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi push to safeguard Iraqi sovereignty.

The French leader is the first Western head of state to travel to the country since a new Iraqi government took office four months ago.

Macron said Iraq faces “foreign interference from multiple points, some which has lasted for many years and some that is more recent”.

"Our collective security and regional stability are at stake," Mr Macron said on Twitter as he met President Barham Salih in the Iraqi capital. "I come to support Iraq in a time of challenges."

 Al Kadhimi has sought to create an independent foreign policy less governed by parameters set by Iran since coming to power in May. But his government has not managed to curb the sway of militants aligned with Tehran.

The economy has been hard hit since February by the decline of oil prices. Oil revenue, Iraq's main source of foreign currency, is running at about $2 billion (Dh7.3bn) a month and about $3bn short of covering public salaries.

The French President said "there are many challenges to guarantee the sovereignty of Iraq, internally and in the region", adding that French soldiers are fighting "side by side" with the Iraqi military to ensure "the final defeat" of extremists.

Official Iraqi media said that Macron will discuss closer security co-operation with Iraqi officials, pointing to France's role as a member of the international coalition against ISIS.

European powers, with the exception of Britain, opposed the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and have since taken a mostly ambivalent position towards the central government in Baghdad.

France and Germany have instead concentrated on building ties with the Kurdish administration in northern Iraq.

Ali Shukri, an adviser at the Iraqi presidency, told the official news agency that Mr Macron would discuss issues related to the economy during his visit.

French oil company Total operates in southern Iraq. It has also operated in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq since 2012. It is a sensitive issue for the central government of Baghdad, which has had constant disputes with the Kurdistan Regional Government over oil revenue.

 Macron's visit comes a day after he met leaders in Lebanon to press for reforms after the explosion at the Beirut port last month that left at least 190 people dead.

He is the most significant leader to visit Iraq since Mr Al Kadhimi came to power in May.

The trip was not announced publicly until Tuesday evening, with officials in Paris and Baghdad keeping a lid on arrangements for security reasons.

On his final night in Beirut, Mr Macron announced he was heading to Baghdad "to launch an initiative alongside the United Nations to support a process of sovereignty".