(AhlulBayt News Agency) - France offered on Thursday to mediate in a political crisis pitting Iraq’s government against Kurdish regional authorities, and promised to maintain a military presence there until ISIS was defeated.
The offer by President Emmanuel Macron coincided with a visit by Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, his first abroad since its Kurdish-held northern regions last month voted for independence in a referendum declared illegal by Baghdad.
The Iraqi government has imposed sanctions in response to the independence vote, but Abadi said on Thursday he could understand the Kurds’ “aspirations” -- provided they were expressed in accordance with the constitution -- and wanted to avoid violence.
“We do not want an armed confrontation, we don’t want clashes,” Abadi said, speaking alongside Macron. “But the federal authority must prevail and nobody can infringe on the federal authority.”
Macron, whose country is the second-biggest contributor to the campaign, said French forces would remain until the militant group’s defeat was “total.”
“It is vital in the coming weeks and months that a dialogue begins that respects the unity, integrity and sovereignty of Iraq within the framework of the constitution and recognizing Kurdish rights,” Macron added.
“France is ready, if Iraqi authorities wish, to actively contribute to the mediation launched by the United Nations.”
Iraqi-Kurdish tensions were ratcheted down a notch on Wednesday when the central bank in Baghdad eased financial restrictions imposed after the vote, after receiving a pledge of cooperation from Kurdish banks, an Iraqi banking source said.
Abadi, in Paris for bilateral talks, said the Iraqis and Kurds had a common interest in maintaining peace.
“We respect the aspirations of all citizens, including the Kurds, I respect those aspirations, but we must work together. We are in one country,” Abadi said.