Official speeches and statements - January 4, 2017
Mr. President, I want to thank you here for your welcome and recall, as you’ve done, that two years ago, just over two years ago, I was in Baghdad and the situation had got especially bad. Daesh [so-called ISIL] had taken up positions, particularly in Mosul and several towns and cities in northern Iraq, and there was a major danger for Iraq, the region and the international community.
So France shouldered its responsibilities, at political level—at the conference we organized in the autumn of 2014, and you were there, Mr. President—and at military level, through the commitment of our forces, in two ways. The first is lending support through advice and training to Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga, but also ensuring that, through our planes and therefore our pilots, our artillery batteries and therefore our soldiers, we can support the Iraqi forces, and the results are there. Several towns and cities in Iraq have now been recaptured, Daesh is in retreat and the battle for Mosul is under way.
So I’ve come here to Baghdad, and I’ll be in Arbil shortly, to confirm France’s commitment to stand by the Iraqi forces to ensure victory and enable Iraq’s territorial integrity to be guaranteed.
But I’ve also come to send a message about reconstruction and reconciliation, because France intends to be a stakeholder in the phase that will begin after the military victory, and particularly to ensure that the confidence which has been created between our two countries can be harnessed to encourage this movement of reconciliation among the population, in Mosul, with an administration that will have to take every community into account, and also to ensure we can work to rebuild Iraq, particularly at economic level.
It’s true we’ve got a common enemy: terrorism, Daesh, fundamentalism, and we must hunt down this enemy wherever it is—in a country, in Iraq, in Syria—but also fully understand the links existing between this terrorist group and a number of individuals it manipulates, who organize attacks in many countries.
We’ll also have to deal with the issue of the return of foreign fighters: those who [have] come from quite a few countries, particularly European countries including France, to wage a battle, who have engaged in acts of violence, who have brought their families, sometimes very young children. We must ensure those individuals can be neutralized, apprehended if they come back, and then that we can embark on deradicalization, particularly for the children. We talked about it because it’s a job we must do jointly, and there too we must share our experiences.
Finally, the last reason for my visit—in addition to what we can do in terms of military support, humanitarian support and political solutions—is to properly coordinate our intelligence services too, because we need them; we’re doing this in the coalition framework and we’re doing it in a spirit of great responsibility with the Iraqi authorities.
I want to finish, Mr. President, by telling you that your role has been outstanding in this period; you’ve managed to bring people together, you’ve managed, with the Abadi government, to ensure Iraqis can regain confidence, but I can tell you that you have a long-term ally in France, that we’re bound together by the battles being fought, by our soldiers working together, and that the friendship between France and Iraq is also the reason why I’m here this morning, in this new year. I wanted the second day of the year to be dedicated to the action we’re taking here in Iraq, with our service personnel but also with you, the Iraqi authorities, because we can’t act without your full acquiescence, your full consent and full respect for what you represent. (...)
These soldiers have been here for several months; some are on their second stay here in Iraq; they’ve spent the festive season here in your country, and particularly Christmas, which is symbolic for many people, because I never forget that yours is a country where there are many faiths, including Middle Eastern Christians, and it was also very important for me to be able to recall, here, the battle we’re engaged in to protect religious minorities, including Middle Eastern Christians and Yazidis.
2. Iraq - Statements by Mr. François Hollande, President of the Republic, during his joint press conference with Mr. Masoud Barzani, President of the autonomous Kurdistan region in Iraq (Arbil - January 2, 2017)
I wanted to be here, as this New Year 2017 gets under way, to wish you all the best in the undertaking you have made to fight terrorism. As you recalled, I was here back in September 2014, a time when Daesh [so-called ISIL] was at the gates of Arbil. You called on France to show solidarity, which it did. It decided, in the framework of the international coalition, to lend you full support, which explains the presence of French military detachments here and also with the Iraqi forces not far from Mosul. But it wouldn’t have been possible to repel Daesh without the courage and sacrifice of the Peshmerga.
A few hours ago we went to the front line. All the territory we passed through is territory you liberated, and in the distance we could see villages and towns that the Peshmerga also liberated by driving out Daesh. For the religious minorities which may have feared for their own future in the region, it was very important that you allowed villages to live their lives again.
Earlier you gave me a present depicting a Peshmerga saving the world. Ultimately this responsibility is incumbent on you, but on the whole international community as well. There comes a time when you have to get involved; you did, and if we want to eradicate terrorism, everyone will have to take the right decisions.
You also presented me with a photo showing Peshmerga re-erecting a cross in a village which was liberated with humanitarian organizations, and it’s also a fine symbol reminding us that the Middle East is rich thanks to all its diversity, all its minorities—I’m thinking of the Christians, Yazidis and Shabak—and it’s also on behalf of these minorities that you led the fighting against Daesh.
You have also taken in many displaced people and I wanted, again, to provide immediate assistance. We’re going to provide this to humanitarian organizations present here and make sure these displaced people can not only be supported but also get back to their towns and villages.
So what remains for us to do? Liberate Mosul, make sure Daesh can be combated here in Iraq and also in Syria, so that this terrorist organization disappears; we’ll need time. What we also have to do is prepare a political solution for the period after the liberation of Mosul and ensure that the city and region can live together and have an administration which makes it possible for people to have a common destiny.
That’s why I’m here: to express gratitude for what you—the Peshmerga—are doing at the moment, what we’ve got to do in support of the Iraqi forces to liberate Mosul, and tell you that we’ll go on expressing to you our solidarity in concrete terms, through this military cooperation, through this humanitarian cooperation and through this political cooperation. That’s why I wanted, as this New Year gets under way, to be here with you, in the spirit which has always united France and the Kurdish people.
Thank you, Mr. President.