Shafaq News /The meeting unfolding today in Paris between French President Emmanuel Macron and the President of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani, marks a significant moment in their ongoing diplomatic relationship. While this isn't their initial encounter, the timing of this meeting, coupled with the regional dynamics at play, bestows upon their summit an unparalleled significance.
The abrupt cancellation – or postponement – of the "Third Baghdad Conference," an event that necessitated President Macron's presence in the Iraqi capital, has paved the way for an urgent and official invitation extended to Nechirvan Barzani to visit Paris. The fact that they are now convening at the Élysée Palace underscores the critical issues and substantial discussions that await them.
France has historically maintained strong ties with the Kurds and the Kurdistan Region, but rarely has there been a Kurdish leader who enjoys such deep and almost continuous communication with the French President, as is currently the case between Nechirvan Barzani and Macron. At least six meetings have taken place between them since 2017.
The Presidency of the Region stated in a Thursday statement that President Nechirvan Barzani, who has already arrived in Paris, will discuss on Friday during his meeting with President Macron at the Élysée Palace the French relations with Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, the development of mutual cooperation, and the situations in Iraq and the region in general.
This statement coincided with an announcement from a well-informed Iraqi government source to Shafaq News Agency, stating that the countries participating in the "Third Baghdad Conference" requested its postponement. This decision was made due to the unstable situation in Iraq, marked by escalating attacks against American forces and concerns about the potential escalation of these attacks and the American response. Several countries also issued warnings against traveling to Iraq. The postponement of the third conference has been indefinite, with no new date set, contingent upon the stabilization of the situation and the cessation of armed factions' escalation against the American forces stationed at several Iraqi military bases.
Therefore, Barzani's prompt acceptance of Macron's invitation reflects France's endeavor to emphasize its ongoing interest in its relations with Iraq and the Kurds, despite the delay of the "Baghdad Conference." The meeting comes at a time when the regional and international dynamics are in flux, and the regional balance is delicate. By nurturing these ties with France, the Kurdistan Region can achieve various objectives and mitigate potential threats.
Observers note that today's Élysée meeting between the French President and the Kurdish leader will involve consultations regarding the rapid developments unfolding in Iraq. These discussions occur amidst the fallout from the conflict between Israel and Hamas, which raises increasing concerns about its regional spillover, potentially affecting Iraq as well.
It is widely known that several Iraqi factions and leaders have issued threats or declared their readiness to engage in the conflict if Israel continues its ground and aerial attacks on the Gaza Strip. Additionally, in case the United States amplifies its role in supporting Israel, these factions are prepared to respond militarily. Just yesterday, for instance, Abdulaziz Al-Mohammadawi, the Chief of Popular Mobilization Forces, "Abu Fadak," raised the state of maximum alert, prepared to handle any emergencies in the coming days. This move is a tacit indication of potential American military responses, following numerous missile and drone attacks on American military sites in Iraq and Syria.
In such a context, Macron's eagerness for an urgent meeting with Barzani also signifies the French presidency's keenness to convey a message. This message underscores France's interest in the stability of the security situation in Iraq, particularly in the Kurdistan Region.
Observers also suggest that the Élysée meeting, which appears to substitute for the postponed "Third Baghdad Conference," aims to reaffirm France's Iraqi presence. During this meeting, they will undoubtedly discuss the roles Paris can play on both the international and regional stages, aiming to prevent major conflicts from erupting in Iraq and the region.
It's worth noting that the first edition of the "Baghdad Conference" took place in the Iraqi capital in August 2021, initiated by President Macron and Iraq, during Mustafa Al-Kadhimi's term as Prime Minister. Macron visited Baghdad at that time, where he emphasized face-to-face meetings with Nechirvan Barzani, even though it wasn't their first encounter. Additionally, the "Baghdad 2" conference was held on December 22, 2022, at the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Center on the shores of the Dead Sea, with the current Prime Minister, Mohammed Shia' Al-Sudani, in attendance.
Nechirvan Barzani's current visit to Paris marks his fourth official visit since assuming the presidency of the Kurdistan Regional Government during his previous term and the current term.
In 2017, the first meeting between Macron and Barzani, who was then the head of the regional government, took place when the French President visited Erbil. At that time, Macron's visit aimed to manage the aftermath of the tension with Baghdad due to the independence referendum. Barzani, on the other hand, stated, "We respect the Federal Court's decision against the independence referendum, and this matter is concluded. We are now in a new phase and ready to address our issues according to the unified Iraqi Constitution." Macron emphasized the necessity of a strong and diverse Iraq, recognizing all its components, as a precondition for immediate and medium-term stability in the Middle East. He added that the "new generation of Kurdish leaders," represented by Nechirvan Barzani and Qubad Talabani, "bears a historical responsibility."
Additionally, Macron visited Erbil in August 2021 to reaffirm his support for the region's development, security, and stability. This visit was part of his trip to Iraq for the "First Baghdad Conference." The two leaders also held a meeting in Paris in March 2021 when Barzani visited the French capital. During their discussions, they addressed the region's key developments and the ongoing war against ISIS. Barzani also met with the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and the Mayor of Paris during his visit.
According to informed sources, Macron will seize the opportunity of his meeting with Nechirvan Barzani today to express France's unwavering support for the Kurdistan Region. Paris has played a long-standing role in assisting the region in confronting the threat of terrorist organization ISIS. These sources indicate that France is closely monitoring the security and political developments in Iraq and the region, ensuring that the significant diplomatic, political, and security investments made in recent years do not go to waste. French concerns are also related to recent giant energy agreements signed with the Iraqi government through the company "Total Energy." France has entered partnerships with Qatari and Saudi companies to undertake massive projects, and they fear potential losses. They will undoubtedly convey these concerns to Barzani, whom they trust, to carry these French messages to the officials in Iraq.