ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday told Kurdistan 24 that he will visit Iraq and the autonomous Kurdistan Region in late 2019.
His comment came in response to a question raised by Kurdistan 24 reporter Barzan Hassan during EU Summit in Brussels, who asked about any potential upcoming trips to travel to the area.
“Yes, I planned and will visit there by the end of this year,” Macron told Kurdistan 24.
In Nov. 2018, French newspaper Le Figaro quoted French and Arab sources, stating that the European leader would leave Paris for four days from Feb. 11 to 14 for an official visit to meet with his counterparts in Beirut and Baghdad.
Macron met with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi on May 3 and previously in Dec. 2017 met with then-Prime Minister and current President of the Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani in Paris.
France played a pivotal role in easing tensions between Erbil and Baghdad following the Kurdistan Region’s 2017 independence referendum, which included territories disputed between the two administrations, with a majority voting for secession.
France is one of the key members of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State. Since 2014, the French government has provided humanitarian, logistics, and military support to the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Iraqi forces in the fight against the extremist group.
In early June, France’s Minister of Justice told the media that she was in discussions with other European governments about the possibility of setting up an international court in Iraq to try foreigners who are accused of traveling to Iraq and Syria to join the Islamic State, saying, “This is speculation voiced by many of my counterparts, interior ministers and justice ministers alike, at the European level.”
European states have been reluctant to repatriate their citizens being charged with becoming Islamic State members or fighters who are now being held in camps in Syria run by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as well the detainees' children.
Many nations in the EU fear that due to the lack of evidence, Islamic State supporters could be quickly released once they appear in court after returning home. As such, the notion of an international criminal court to try them either in Iraq or Syria appears to be an attractive solution for them.
Days before the announcement, an Iraqi court handed down death sentences to two French nationals convicted of being members of the Islamic State.
They are among 12 French accused Islamic State members who were arrested by the SDF and transferred from Syrian to Iraqi custody earlier this year, with others from the group having been given earlier death sentences.
Editing by John J. Catherine