TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – French President Emmanuel Macron is in Baghdad on his first official visit to Iraq for talks with the country’s senior officials.
Coming straight from a two-day trip to the Lebanese capital Beirut, Macron arrived in Baghdad on Wednesday morning.
Macron’s visit is the first by a western head of state to Iraq since Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi came to power in May.
Official Iraqi media said the French president will discuss closer military cooperation with Iraqi officials.
Macron was welcomed by President Barham Salih upon arrival.
He has already started a series of meetings with Iraqi officials including Prime Minister Kadhimi, President Salih and Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi. He is also scheduled to sit down for talks with Nechirvan Barzani, president of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.
Local media reported that Macron will also hold a meeting with Iraq’s prominent Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in the holy city of Najaf.
In a tweet he posted from the Iraqi capital, Macron said he aimed to help guarantee Iraq’s security and economic sovereignty.
“In Baghdad… where I have just expressed our support for Iraq at this challenging time. There are many challenges in terms of guaranteeing Iraq’s sovereignty in all its dimensions, … both inside the country and elsewhere in the region,” he wrote.
Pointing to Paris’ role in the US-led coalition purportedly fighting Daesh, he said, “Our collective security and regional stability are at risk,” and that the two countries’ soldiers are “fighting side by side” to ensure the terror group suffers a final defeat.
Speaking a day earlier in Beirut, Macron said he was heading to Baghdad “to launch an initiative alongside the United Nations to support a process of sovereignty.”
The US invaded Iraq in 2003 under the pretext of “war on terror,” plunging the country into a cycle of violence which continues to this day.
Daesh emerged in Iraq in 2014 and made sweeping territorial gains in the north and the west, putting the country on the brink of being overtaken by the Takfiri outfit.
The coalition, however, did little to help the Iraqi army, which eventually managed to liberate the country from Daesh with the support of volunteer forces at home and neighboring Iran.
Iraq declared victory over Daesh in late 2017, but the US-led alliance has yet to end the so-called counter-terrorism mission in the country.