France and Iraq strengthen their “strategic” cooperation, particularly on energy

French President Emmanuel Macron (d) and Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Chia al-Soudani at the Elysee Palace in Paris, January 26, 2023 (POOL/AFP/Christophe ARCHAMBAULT)

Emmanuel Macron and Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Chia al-Soudani announced in Paris the strengthening of cooperation, particularly in the crucial energy sector, after a meeting Thursday evening in Paris which resulted in the signing of a “strategic partnership treaty”.

A month after his participation in a regional conference in support of Iraq, the French president confirmed his commitment to this key country in the Middle East, where he has visited twice since taking power in 2017.

In December in Jordan, he pleaded for Baghdad, under the influence of Iran, to embark on a path other than that of a “model dictated by the outside”.

The government of Mohamed Chia al-Soudani is supported by majority pro-Iranian parties in the Iraqi Parliament, much to the chagrin of the United States.

During a dinner at the Élysée, the two men first “condemned attacks that undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq, wherever they come from”, according to a statement commune published overnight from Thursday to Friday.

The head of the Iraqi government “wanted to strengthen bilateral defense cooperation”, according to the declaration, even if no new commitment was announced in this regard.

On the eve of his visit, Mr. Soudani had told AFP that he hoped to obtain with France “the training and development of Iraqi security capacities”, as well as “the purchase of armaments”.

The two leaders “wished” together to “bring Franco-Iraqi cooperation higher” in energy and transport.

Mr. Soudani, in power for three months, is looking for partners to give a boost to the Iraqi energy sector and in particular to the electricity network, dilapidated and collateral victim of corruption.

Paris and Baghdad “reiterated their commitment to complete the major projects undertaken”, in particular “the renovation of the Iraqi electricity network and the electricity interconnection with Jordan”, “as well as the project to build an aerial metro in Baghdad”. , thanks to the “expertise” of French companies such as GE Grid France, Schneider Electric, and Alstom, according to the joint statement.

“With regard to alternative energies, they have shown their commitment to the implementation of the multi-energy project of TotalEnergies”, which is long overdue.

For these projects to succeed, France has undertaken “to extend the reimbursable export credit facilities for an amount of one billion euros, to support French companies operating in Iraq”, say the two countries.

© 2023 AFP

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