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France stands ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ with Iraq, Kurdistan against terrorism: Macron

France will stand “shoulder-to-shoulder” with Iraq and the Kurdistan Region to fight terrorism, President Emmanuel Macron said in Mosul, speaking in front of the al-Nuri mosque where the Islamic State group (ISIS) declared its so-called caliphate in 2014.

“The message I want to make very clear is that we will do whatever we can, shoulder-to-shoulder with the government of the region and with the Iraqi government to fight against this terrorism,” Macron told Rudaw’s Naif Ramadhan.

Macron is in Iraq for a two-day visit. On Saturday he attended the Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership, a summit that brought together neighbouring countries to lay the groundwork for improving cooperation on a regional level. It was organized in coordination with France. On Sunday, Macron is visiting Mosul and Erbil.

His visit comes as the United States is withdrawing from Afghanistan and formally shifting its mission in Iraq, ending its combat mission against ISIS by the end of the year. The American withdrawal is a demand of powerful Iraqi militias backed by Iran, but is opposed by Kurdish leaders who are worried about a resurging ISIS.

Speaking to reporters in Baghdad on Saturday, Macron said France will continue to assist Iraq battle ISIS. “No matter what choices the Americans make, we will maintain our presence in Iraq to fight against terrorism,” he said.

While in Baghdad, the French president visited the Shiite al-Kadhimiya mosque, and met with Yazidi activist Nadia Murad. In Mosul, he visited Our Lady of the Hour Church and the Sunni al-Nuri mosque.

“I wanted to pay this tribute to each community,” he said. “My message is that we want to work with the different components with the spirit of respect.”

“We will be with you in order to help with this mutual respect, to rebuild monuments, churches, schools, mosques, minarets, and so on, but we will help as well to build economic opportunities,” he added.

Good relations between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government are key to the stability and security of Iraq, Macron said, adding that France has played a key role in mending ties between Erbil and Baghdad in the past.

“The stability work, the work in terms of economic opportunities is very important. It will be the result of cooperation between the Kurdish government and the federal government, and we will do whatever we can to facilitate this job,” he said, adding he has had positive discussions on this issue with the leadership in Baghdad and Erbil.