ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday called on the Iraqi government to disarm the Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias while urging Baghdad to start a “serious dialogue” with Erbil to resolve their differences.
During a speech in Paris to mark the occasion of the New Year, Macron pointed to the need to disarm all militias in Iraq, mainly the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) or Hashd al-Shaabi.
In early December, during a press conference in France following a meeting with Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, the French President called for “the gradual” dismantling of all Iraqi militias.
“It is essential that there is a gradual demilitarization, in particular of the [Shia militias] that established itself in the last few years in Iraq,” he said.
Ali al-Sistani, an Iranian Shia cleric in Iraq, created the PMF after issuing a “fatwa” following the Islamic State’s (IS) blitzkrieg of both Iraq and Syria.
The organization consists of over 100 armed groups mostly close to Iran with a vast majority of them having political wings in the Iraqi government, especially those that receive support and funding from Tehran.
Macron also addressed the ongoing disputes between the KRG and Baghdad following Kurdistan’s historic independence referendum which received widespread support for secession from Iraq.
Baghdad responded to the vote by imposing several punitive measures against Kurdistan, including a flight ban and the use of force to take over disputed territories.
“It is necessary that both the Iraqi government and the [KRG] begin a serious and comprehensive dialogue to reach a political solution to the problems between the two sides.
France has previously called on Iraq to avoid escalating tensions through the use of military forces, while officials in the Kurdistan Region have reiterated their readiness for peaceful negotiations.