Iraqi Kurdistan – President Barzani/France – French support
Q. – (…) What is France’s position vis-à-vis Iraq and the Kurdistan region?
THE MINISTER – (…) France is determined to support Iraq in her efforts. She stands alongside the Iraqis. This is why, on President Sarkozy’s initiative, the French authorities decided to revitalize relations with Iraq in every sphere.
As you know, I have been to Iraq several times, in 2007 and again in 2008. 2009 was an exceptional year for Franco-Iraqi relations, marked by President Sarkozy’s visit, followed by reciprocal exchanges by heads of government and several ministers and culminating with Mr Talabani’s State visit to Paris. Such a large number of visits is unprecedented in our relationship.
We are pleased to see that security has clearly returned to Iraqi Kurdistan which is a prosperous region where democracy is increasing. And above all we’re pleased that the Kurds are clearly playing their full part in the building of the Iraqi State. May I in particular pay tribute to President Talabani and his wise and moderate stands in the face of the difficulties Iraq is still experiencing. I had a meeting with President Talabani, Mam Jalal, a long time ago, in the mountains, with my great friend, the assassinated Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, the deeply lamented leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran. (…)
Q. – President Sarkozy has officially invited President Barzani to France. What is the programme for this visit?
THE MINISTER – As I told you, France is revitalizing her relations with Iraq in every sphere and taking an interest in all Iraq’s regions. Hence, during his visit to Iraq, President Sarkozy invited President Barzani to France to take stock more specifically of relations with Iraqi Kurdistan.
During his visit, Mr Barzani will have meetings with the Head of State and President of the Senate, as well as me. These will provide the opportunity to talk about the political situation in Iraq and the Kurdish Autonomous Region as well as bilateral relations and cooperation between France and the Kurdish region. President Barzani and I will sign a letter of intent mapping out the framework for our various present and future economic, trade, scientific and cultural cooperation projects. As you know, France already has 73 Kurds studying on grants in her universities, the first archaeological excavations in Iraq have begun near Erbil with a team of French archaeologists, two French schools have opened in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, and a start has been made on health and public health cooperation, which is going to continue. A French cultural centre has opened its doors in Erbil, thanks to former prime minister Nechirvan Barzani. (…)
Q. – The French Consulate has contributed a great deal to developing relations between the Kurdish people and France. We sincerely hope this relationship will also develop in the political and economic spheres.
To what extent is the French government willing to support French investors and businessmen to help us in this development and reconstruction stage?
THE MINISTER – In 2007, France opened a consulate-general in Erbil, headed by Frédéric Tissot, a great expert on Kurdistan and an old friend of the Kurds, who is committed not only to developing the political relationship through his contacts with the region’s authorities, but also economic relations by helping companies wishing to set up in Kurdistan get their bearings and identify good contacts. For this, the French Consulate-General relies on the support of the Erbil office of our French economic and commercial section in Iraq. And once again, French medical progress, French medicine and public health should interest you, because it’s one of the pillars for building a fairer society. (…)./.