ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – French President Emmanuel Macron is set to visit Iraq and Lebanon in February, diplomatic sources have said according to a French news outlet.
Macron’s trips to the two countries would be a first since he was elected president in May 2017.
The president will leave Paris for four days from February 11 to 14 for an official visit to meet with his counterparts in Beirut and Baghdad, Le Figaro on Wednesday quoted Arab and French sources as saying.
“The reconstruction of Iraq and the role of the pro-Iranian Hezbollah in regional crises will be at the center of the talks between the head of state and his counterparts in Beirut and Baghdad,” the paper wrote.
Macron’s stay will be two days in each country, but it is not yet clear which will be his first destination.
Paris had planned the trip for an earlier time but was delayed due to political stalemates in the two Middle Eastern countries, with Beirut still in negotiations and Baghdad having just recently formed a government.
On Oct. 20, Macron congratulated Adil Abdul-Mahdi on his election as prime minister-designate and wished him success in his work to form the new Iraqi government and present a cabinet to address issues plaguing the war-torn nation.
Earlier and through Kurdistan 24, Macron extended his well-wishes to Abdul-Mahdi, and affirmed France would stand by Iraq’s side as the country attempts to recover from decades of government neglect and a four-year war against the Islamic State (IS).
“France will continue to stand by Iraq and the Iraqi people for the months and years to come in the areas of reconstruction, humanitarian aid, as well as politics.”
France played a pivotal role in easing tension between Erbil and Baghdad after the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum, which included territories disputed between the two administrations, with a majority in the semi-autonomous region calling for secession.
The new Iraqi government will face a number of challenges, notably, the security situation in liberated areas, the reconstruction of damaged cities, among them IS’ self-proclaimed capital of Mosul, and address issues in the Basra province, which saw widespread protests in the summer months amid plunging living standards.
Editing by Nadia Riva