Hollande visits Iraq in show of support
French leader brings humanitarian aid a day after move by Arab states to back US-led fight against Islamic State group.
French President Francois Hollande has arrived in Iraq to show support for Baghdad’s conflict against the Islamic State group, which has seized large parts of the country in recent months.
Hollande’s aircraft, carrying about 15 tonnes of humanitarian aid set to be delivered to the Kurdish capital of Erbil, landed in Baghdad on Friday.
France is preparing to take part in possible US-led air strikes against the armed group.
France, which has been supplying arms to Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State fighters since August, has also been flying in humanitarian supplies to help civilians affected by the conflict.
The latest aid supply is set to be delivered to Erbil following talks between Hollande and his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Masum, parliament speaker Salim al-Juburi, and prime minister Haider al-Abdadi.
Hollande travelled to Baghdad with Jean-Yves Le Drian and Laurent Fabius, respectively France’s defence and foreign ministers.
The visit comes a day after 10 Arab states agreed to rally behind the Obama administration in the fight against Islamic State fighters, as the US seeks to build an international coalition.
Following a meeting between John Kerry, US secretary of state, and his Arab counterparts in the Saudi city of Jeddah, the participating countries released a statement on Thursday, saying they would “do their share in the comprehensive fight” against the Islamic State.
In addition to Saudi Arabia, the other Arab states present were Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and the UAE.
Participation in the fight will include “as appropriate, joining in the many aspects of a coordinated military campaign against ISIL”, the statement said.
The fight will include “stopping the flow of foreign fighters through neighbouring countries, countering financing of ISIL and other violent extremists, repudiating their hateful ideology, ending impunity and bringing perpetrators to justice”.
It will also include “contributing to humanitarian relief efforts, assisting with the reconstruction and rehabilitation of communities brutalised by ISIL, supporting states that face the most acute ISIL threat”.
Prince Saud Al-Faisal, the Saudi foreign minister, called for a “comprehensive approach” that does not focus on one country in the fight against “terrorism”, citing Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Syria and Yemen as affected countries.
Although Turkey was represented in the meeting, it was not mentioned in the final communique.
A US official in Jeddah said Turkey had its reasons for staying out of the coalition.
“We understand the challenging situation Turkey is in given their detained diplomats and they will make the decision on what role they can play moving forward.”
Islamic State fighters were holding 49 Turks hostage, including diplomats and children, abducted from the Turkish consulate in Mosul in Iraq on June 11.