The Taliban’s occupation of Afghanistan overshadowed a summit in Baghdad on Saturday that included key regional leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, who vowed to make his country stand firm in Iraq.
The meeting comes at a time when Iraq, a victim of jihadist militancy, is trying to establish itself as a mediator between Arab countries and Iran.
“Given the geopolitical developments, this conference has taken a special turn,” Macron said at the summit.
He said his country would continue to deploy troops in Iraq to fight terrorism, even if the United States withdraws.
“No matter what the Americans choose, we will maintain our presence in Iraq,” Macron told a news conference in Baghdad.
“We all know that we should not underestimate our defender, because ISIS (Islamic State group) remains a threat, and I know that the fight against these terrorist groups is your government’s priority,” Macron said. After meeting with Iraqis, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kazmi said
Kazmi replied that Iraq and France are important partners in the war on terror.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II attended the summit, as did the foreign ministers of regional enemies Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also attended.
– ‘Not easy’ –
Sources close to Iraq said that Iraq is trying to play a united role in dealing with the crises that have shaken the region.
The oil-rich country has for years been in a delicate balance between its two main allies, Iran and the United States.
In the Islamic Republic of Iraq, allied armed groups exert a major influence within the Hashad al-Shabi, a powerful state-sponsored paramilitary force.
Baghdad has been in talks since April 2016 to improve relations between the US ally Riyadh and Tehran, which were severed in 2016.
A French diplomatic source said it was not easy to keep Saudis and Iranians in the same room.
An adviser to Qadhi said the mere presence of two foreign ministers was a “success” in itself.
Macron said the Baghdad conference would make it possible to build a framework for co-operation in the fight against terrorism.
An IS-linked group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Kabul on Thursday that killed hundreds of people, including 13 US soldiers.
Analysts say the attack has revived global fears that the militant group, which occupied Syria and Iraq before leaving the two countries, is re-emerging.
The blast came in the last days of the US-led withdrawal from Afghanistan after the Taliban seized power.
– ‘Focus’ operations
Macron also talks separately with the Emir of Qatar about the possible role of Doha – who has good relations with the Taliban who are hosting peace talks – after the August 31 deadline set by Washington. In evacuation arrangements.
The French leader told reporters that Paris was negotiating with the Taliban through Qatar to ensure the safety and repatriation of endangered Afghans.
He said France, which ended its withdrawal from Afghanistan on Friday, had evacuated 2,834 people since August 17.
Macron added that Qatar is now being relied upon to arrange more “focused” flights to evacuate “men and women we have identified and whom we have granted temporary (residential) permission.” ۔
France was part of a US-led coalition that declared a caliphate in 2014 against IS in the occupied territories of Iraq and Syria. It has about 800 troops stationed in Iraq.
Baghdad declared IS a regional defeat in December 2017, but the group still maintains sleeper cells and claims bloody attacks.
Last month, a deadly bomb exploded in a crowded bazaar in the capital, killing more than 30 people during a major Muslim holiday.
According to Colin Clark, a senior research fellow at the Sufan Center, “millions of dollars are still available and he is likely to continue rebuilding his network throughout Iraq and Syria.”
In July, President Joe Biden said US combat operations in Iraq would end this year, but that the troops would continue to train, advise and assist the Iraqi army in its fight against IS.
Washington currently has 2,500 troops stationed in Iraq.
On the sidelines of the summit, the Egyptian president met with the Emir of Qatar – his first meeting since the January summit, which pitted Doha against Cairo and the Gulf Arab states.