Minister says cooperation with Iraq on French jihadists is positive
Iraq – Q&A with the press by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs (excerpts)
Erbil, 18 October 2019
Q. – What has this visit achieved?
THE MINISTER – I came here first, to Baghdad and Erbil, to show the support of the French President and France for Iraq and, inside Iraq, for Kurdistan, because in the new situation, they’re the ones being made most vulnerable, because they’re the ones who have borne the full brunt of Daesh [so-called ISIL], because this is where the caliphate was set up and this is where the risks of Daesh making a comeback are most felt. I believe the message was understood because there’s trust in France here and in its commitments. Moreover, France has shown it has stood by its commitments over the past five years of fighting Daesh.
Q. – As regards jihadists, which is an issue of great concern to the general public, what progress is there?
THE MINISTER – The main issue as regards the jihadists is that there are 13,000 jihadist fighters of every nationality in Syrian prisons today. And that’s our issue of main concern. Because those fighters were fighting up until as recently as March – that was the last battle against Daesh –, they were imprisoned and today we’ve got to keep them secured so there can be subsequent judicial proceedings. That was the main topic of my discussions with the authorities I met and it’s the main reason we’d also like the international coalition against Daesh to meet soon, because it’s a risk. It’s especially dangerous given that we’re already seeing resurgences in that part of Syria. There have already been two attacks, including one in Raqqa, a city France has sad memories of, and [there are] other risks here in Iraq. So it’s important for the coalition to resume that fight and for everyone around the table to adopt a stance and say what they want to do.
Q. – And how would they [the prisoners] be secured? What initial progress has there been?
THE MINISTER – That’s for the coalition to say.
Q. – And the Iraqi position? Cooperation with Iraq?
THE MINISTER – Cooperation with the Iraqis is positive. Regarding the French jihadists who fought on Iraqi soil and who, that way, became subject to the Iraqi courts’ jurisdiction, we’ve decided at the highest level to put cooperation in place to look together at judicial but also technical, prisons and humanitarian cooperation, in a spirit of great trust. (…)./.