France and Iraq

Presentation

Political relations

France provided political, diplomatic, military and humanitarian support to the new Iraqi authorities in implementing a policy of national reconciliation and in the fight against Daesh. France has also taken action to meet the sizeable needs in stabilizing the liberated areas from Daesh in Iraq (it contributed some €3 million to the UNDP Funding Facility for Immediate Stabilization, the FFIS). Twenty-three countries and organizations attended a ministerial meeting co-chaired with Iraq held on 20 October 2016 for the stabilization of Mosul. President François Hollande dedicated his first visit of 2017 to Iraq on 2 January, reiterating France’s support to the Abadi government and its national reconciliation policy. Moreover, the President received Masoud Barzani, President of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan Iraq, on 21 February 2017 at the Élysée Palace.

Since President Macron’s election, the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs and the Minister for the Armed Forces made a joint visit to Baghdad on 26 August. The Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi made an official visit to France on 5 October 2017. Confronted with the crisis following the referendum on the independence of Iraqi Kurdistan, the President of the French Republic called Baghdad and Erbil to hold discussions and supports the dialogue facilitation efforts of the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Jan Kubis. He met with the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani, on 2 December in Paris.

Bilateral visits

Iraqi visits to France:

  • 2 December 2017: Mr Nechirvan Barzani, Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government
  • 5 October 2017: Mr Haider al-Abadi, Prime Minister of the Republic of Iraq (official visit)
  • 21 September 2017: Mr Nizar Khairallah, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • 21 February 2017: Mr Massoud Barzani, President of the autonomous region of Kurdistan
  • 20 October 2016: Mr Ibrahim al-Jafaari, Minister of Foreign Affairs (co-chair of the ministerial meeting for the stabilization of Mosul).
  • 8 September 2016: Mr Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Regional Government
  • 8 September 2015: Mr Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Minister for Foreign Affairs (International Conference on the Victims of Ethnic and Religious Violence in the Middle East).
  • 2 June 2015: Mr Haider al-Abadi, Prime Minister (ministerial meeting of the core group of the international coalition on the fight against Daesh; received by the President of the French Republic and the President of the National Assembly)

French visits to Iraq:

  • 7 December: visit by the Minister of State attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs on the occasion of the Franco-Iraqi Joint Commission
  • 26 August 2017: joint visit by Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and Ms Florence Parly, Minister for the Armed Forces
  • 2 January 2017: Mr François Hollande, President of the Republic
  • 18-22 July 2016: Mr André Vallini, Minister of State for Development and Francophonie
  • 11-12 April 2016: Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defence
  • 12 September 2014: Mr François Hollande, President of the French Republic, Mr Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defence
  • 10 August 2014: Mr Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development

For more information, consult the website of the French Embassy in Baghdad

Economic relations

France was one of Iraq’s foremost partners in the 1970s and 1980s, but saw a drop in its trade with the country as a result of economic sanctions in the 1990s. After the military intervention of 2003, French exports fell to €143 million in 2004. France cancelled about €4.8 billion in Iraqi debts between 2005 and 2008, within the framework of the Paris Club. This cancellation of 80 % of Iraqi liabilities in our regard was the largest among the Western countries. In 2017, France granted a loan of €430 million to Iraq’s budget, with the State’s guarantee.

Economic exchanges with Iraq are declining and our imports in terms of value have been affected by plummeting crude oil prices. Trade between France and Iraq accounted for €476 million in 2016 versus €1.26 billion in 2015, a drop of 61% in one year. If our exports (mechanical equipment, electrical equipment, pharmaceutical products and motor vehicles) decreased by 25.8% from €427 million in 2015 to €317 million in 2016, our imports, 99% of which were crude oil, dropped by 80.3% from €807 million to €159 million over the same period. In 2016, Iraq was France’s seventh-largest parnter in the Middle East, France’s seventh-largest customer and France’s seventh-largest supplier behind Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar. France’s market share remains limited representing only around 1% of Iraq’s foreign trade. French companies are present in a wide range of sectors: hydrocarbons (Total, Perenco), electricity (Schneider Electric, Alstom), transport (Airbus, ADPi, Alstom, CMA-CGM, Renault Trucks, Thales), environment (Degrémont, Veolia), construction (Lafarge is the largest French investor in Iraq) and health (Sanofi). Today France would like to actively participate in Iraq’s reconstruction.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Our cooperation activities are governed by a partnership agreement for cultural, scientific and technical cooperation and development which was signed during the state visit of President Talabani in November 2009 and ratified by France on 4 February 2015.

Support for the rule of law

France hosted Iraqi officials (police, magistrates and prison personnel) to its specialized schools and provided training in Iraq, under the European EUJUST LEX-Iraq mission, which ended in 2013. It also conducts bilateral training and support action for the autonomous region of Kurdistan magistrates in efforts to fight the impunity of crimes committed by Daesh.

There has been parliamentary cooperation with Iraq for several years. In June 2015, a delegation of officials from the Council of Representatives of the Republic of Iraq went on a study visit to Paris. A delegation from the Iraqi Majlis Al-Shura also carried out a study visit to France’s Council of State in October 2015. The visit was mentioned in the memorandum of understanding signed in 2010 between the two institutions.

Scientific and technical cooperation

Since 2011, the French Institute for the Near East (IFPO) has had an office in Erbil and is taking action in different areas, including archaeology, social sciences and humanities and ancient history. Since November 2012 the IFPO has been located in the “Maison Chalabi” building, is inside the citadel of Erbil which has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since June 2014.

We cooperate closely in the areas of archaeology and heritage. France was one of the first countries to respond to Daesh’s systematic destruction of Iraq’s ancient heritage and has launched several projects to that end.

Cultural and linguistic cooperation

Following a fresh outbreak of violence in Iraq, most cultural activities in Baghdad were temporarily suspended, but were resumed in Erbil (Iraqi Kurdistan) on 1 January 2016.

After obtaining their baccalaureate, students wishing to continue learning French can attend the Institut Français in Iraq (Baghdad and the branch in Erbil) or one of the four French faculties in the universities of Baghdad, Mustansiriya, Erbil and Mosul (the latter was closed while the city was occupied by Daesh). In addition, there are two French schools in Iraqi Kurdistan, in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.

For more information, visit the website of the Institut Français in Erbil

Updated: January 2018