ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A French delegation led by the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, arrived in Erbil on Thursday and met with the city’s Governor, Nawzad Hadi, to discuss bilateral cooperation and sign a joint agreement.
Thursday’s visit is Hidalgo’s second trip to the autonomous region. The first was in September 2014 with then-French President Francois Hollande, four months after the emergence and spread of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq.
Hadi told reporters he had visited Paris twice over the last few years to meet Hidalgo and exchange ideas about issues related to traffic congestion, waste disposal, public parks in Erbil, and how the city can benefit from Paris’ experiences.
He praised France’s support to the people of the Kurdistan Region and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) over the past few years, especially during the fight against the Islamic State.
Meanwhile, Hidalgo told reporters that the economic development in Erbil demonstrates that the Kurdistan Region capital is being re-born and is determined to build a bright future after difficult times in the fight against the extremist group.
She praised the efforts of the Kurdistan Region who opened its doors to many refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) that fled from terror. Hidalgo also reiterated France’s support to the autonomous region.
The French mayor noted that she is in Erbil to discuss cooperation on various topics with Kurdish officials including the improvement of cultural ties between both sides.
She underlined that the number of IDPs and refugees in the Kurdistan Region remains high; therefore, she called on humanitarian organizations to continue to provide aid to the region.
According to the French mayor, the Council of Paris voted last week to donate 100,000 euros for educational support to children at one of the camps in Duhok province who are unable to attend school.
Asked by Kurdistan 24 correspondent Blessa Shaweys whether the French language would be added to curriculums across schools in the autonomous region, Hidalgo said the matter could be discussed between Kurdish officials who could then exchange linguistic experts between both sides in that regard.
Ali Dolamari, the KRG representative to France, described the cooperation between Paris and Erbil as a positive step. He told Kurdistan 24 the Kurdistan Region would largely benefit from France’s experiences and its support.
Dolamari noted that the French delegation led by Hidalgo would visit several IDP and refugee camps in Erbil and Duhok on Friday and later meet with some Kurdish officials.
One of the key members of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State, France has provided military and humanitarian support to the Kurdistan Region over the past few years. Indeed, its military advisers continue to train Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the region.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Additional reporting by Blessa Shaweys)