French President Emmanuel Macron pledged support for Iraq on Wednesday and said the main challenges facing the country are Islamic State militants and foreign interference in its affairs.
“We are here for and we will continue to support Iraq,” Macron said at a news conference in Baghdad with his Iraqi counterpart Barham Salih.
Iraq should not become a battleground for proxy conflicts between other states, Salih said.
Macron’s visit is the first by a Western leader to Iraq since Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi took office in May, becoming the third head of government in a chaotic 10-week period that followed months of deadly protests in a country exhausted by decades of sanctions, war, corruption and economic challenges.
Kadhimi was selected by parliament in May to head a government that would guide the country towards early elections and has called for one to be held in June 2021. His predecessor Adel Abdul Mahdi quit under pressure from protests against corruption and foreign interference in December last year.
Early elections are a main demand of anti-government protesters who staged months of mass demonstrations last year and were killed in their hundreds by security forces and gunmen suspected of links to Iran-backed militia groups.