France's Macron calls on Iraq to dismantle all militias
French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday called on Iraq to dismantle all militias, including the government-sanctioned, Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), a rare public call to do so by a major Western leader, APA reports quoting Reuters.
Macron’s call, which followed a meeting with Iraqi Kurdish leaders in Paris, underscores the tough balancing act Baghdad has to perform between its allies in the war on Islamic State, Iran and Western powers, which do not see eye to eye.
“It is essential that there is a gradual demilitarisation, in particular of the Popular Mobilisation that established itself in the last few years in Iraq, and that all militias be gradually dismantled,” he told a Paris news conference held with Iraqi Kurdish leaders.
Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) authorities accuse the majority Arab Shi‘ite PMF of widespread abuses against Kurds in Iraq’s ethnically mixed regions.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s government denies that the PMF are engaged in a systematic pattern of abuses and has pledged to punish anyone proven guilty of violations.
Disarming the PMF is seen as Abadi’s most difficult test as his forces edge closer to declaring victory over Islamic State.
In Baghdad, Abadi’s office released a statement later saying he had spoken to Macron by phone and that the French president had affirmed his country’s commitment to a unified Iraq. It made no mention of Macron’s call to dismantle the militias.
Iraqi Vice President Nuri al-Maliki, a former prime minister who was pressured to leave office by both the U.S. and Iran for failing to stop Islamic State, was more forceful.
Macron, he said, was carrying out “unacceptable interference” in Iraq’s internal affairs. “These positions from France are absolutely rejected and harm Iraq’s sovereignty and its institutions,” Maliki said in a statement.
Macron’s meeting with KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and his deputy Qubad Talabani was the first high-profile international meeting for the Kurdish leadership after a Sept. 25 independence referendum.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and British Prime Minister Theresa May have both made trips to Iraq after the referendum but only met officials in Baghdad and made no visits to the KRG capital Erbil.
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