President Sarkozy’s visit to Baghdad
Baghdad, February 10, 2009
THE PRESIDENT: […] It is a great joy and a great honor to stand [alongside President Jalal Talabani], together with your friend and mine, Bernard Kouchner. It is the first time in the history of our relationship that a French president is paying a visit to Iraq. It is also the first visit by a European head of state to Baghdad since 2003. And I am very moved, Mr. President, by the presence here, by your side, of your two vice presidents and the minister of foreign affairs. I have come with Bernard Kouchner to tell the Iraqi people that France stands united with them.
The French were deeply distressed by the tragic events that struck Iraq, by the despair engendered by the absurdity of terrorism, and by the fate of millions of refugees and displaced families. But thanks to you, thanks to your government, the Iraqis are getting Iraq out of this impasse. Thanks to your efforts, Iraq is regaining its sovereignty. The provincial elections on January 31 were a big success. The whole world saw the Iraqi people express, through the ballot box, its aspirations for diversity, pluralism, respect for the law, and the re-establishment of the State. Democracy and Iraqi institutions now appear able to contain the forces that attempted to break the Iraqi State apart.
France believes in Iraq’s unity. The world needs a united, democratic, sovereign, strong Iraq. France wants to see your full reintegration into the Middle East and into the world. Our support will be continuous and without interference. Finally, I have come to mark France’s desire to participate in Iraq’s economic development, in the rehabilitation of its infrastructures. There are no limits to our collaboration. Finally, as the presence, this morning, of your two vice presidents demonstrates, Iraq is strong because Iraq is plural. Iraq is a great country because it is rooted in ethnic and religious diversity, which is an asset, and I want to thank you for preserving this diversity, which includes Kurds, Sunnis, Shiites and of course Christians. Allow me, finally, Mr. President, to applaud your commitment to dialogue, to the rule of law and to re-uniting [the Iraqi people]. For me, this is a historic visit and it will stand out in my work as President of the Republic. After Bernard Kouchner’s two successful visits, it concretizes France’s commitment to stand by your side. And I want to tell the media that Bernard Kouchner and I proposed that the Iraqi president and his two vice presidents pay a state visit to France before the end of 2009.
Q: Mr. President, you said there were no limits to France’s support for Iraq. Does that mean France may be intending to conclude an economic agreement, a security agreement, with Iraq by 2011-2012? And if that is your intent, what kind of agreement would it be possible to sign?
THE PRESIDENT: It’s up to our Iraqi friends to tell us what kind of agreements they want. We would like to collaborate on the economic level, in the area of energy, of reconstruction; we could help you train your elites. We are prepared to further the education of your students. We could also work with you to train and equip the Iraqi army. And on the diplomatic level, we could also help Iraq regain its full international sovereignty. It’s up to you to tell us what you expect from us. We would like to see a united Iraq. The world doesn’t need a divided Iraq. An Iraq that is diverse, respectful of its different minorities, democratic—as you demonstrated on January 31—and sovereign, which manages its own affairs. If, as you embark on this path, France can help you, it will stand by your side. It will stand by your side, and not just once you’ve succeeded. It will stand by your side from the very beginning, on the path to success.
Q: […] How do you assess Iraqi representation, Iraqi representivity today after your talks in Baghdad this morning?
A: France wants to look toward the future, the future of Iraq, which is turning the painful pages of the last few years. France sees a Kurdish Iraqi president, one Shiite vice president and one Sunni vice president. In a few minutes I will see the prime minister. An agreement was ratified with the Parliament that will allow the Iraqis to regain their full sovereignty in urban areas in 2009, and in the rest of the country by 2011. The security situation is improving, even though there are still problems. The situation isn’t perfect, but who would have guessed a few months ago that I could come here and hold talks in these conditions? France chooses to see the path that looks ahead to the future, rather than focusing on the past, which was painful for all Iraqis. Iraq represents a hope. It hasn’t yet been achieved. You will have legislative elections and there will be many setbacks, but the Iraqi people have shown they know how to overcome such difficulties. In any case, one thing is certain: a united, democratic Iraq is crucial to the balance of the region. And as we’ve seen, in the end, sidelining Iraq for so many years was not a factor that promoted peace throughout the region. If the Iraqi people have the wisdom to understand that their diversity is a strength, then perhaps you will even serve as an example to the region, which needs diversity. Diversity is a strength. It is not a problem.
Q: Mr. President, you said during your visit today that you were ready to support Iraq and to work for a partnership with Iraq. Are you going to encourage other European countries to follow suit, after today’s visit?
A: Bernard Kouchner was the first European foreign minister to come here. I am the first European head of state to come since 2003. It goes without saying that the message we’re bringing today is first of all France’s message. But it’s also Europe’s commitment that I want to encourage in Iraq. Europe has every interest in stabilizing this part of the world. It is in Europe’s interest to foster peace, peace between Palestinians and Israelis, peace in Iraq. So all of Europe must support you. And I hope that Bernard Kouchner and I will be followed by many foreign ministers and many heads of state and government. Now is the time for us to help Iraq. Now is the time to commit ourselves.
Q: Mr. President, can we say that your visit today already represents a beginning with respect to the arrival of French companies in Iraq? Can we say that this is an economic visit?
A: First and foremost it is political and diplomatic. It’s not up to me to bring companies back to Iraq. It’s up to Iraq to bring them back in. But along with Bernard Kouchner, I am going to ask French companies, when they do want to return to Iraq, not to stop in Amman. If they want to stay in Amman to help Jordan, by all means let them do so. But Iraqi business must be done in Iraq. We are going to take measures to expand our diplomatic post, to open an economic mission and to open consulates. And business leaders must come here to Iraq to discuss the problems of the Iraqis.