Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi hails French role in fighting ISIS

'We are by you side,' French Defence Minister Florence Parly assures Irqaq during Baghdad visit

French Defence Minister Florence Parly wears a facemask to avoid the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus as she attends a meeting with her Iraqi counterpart in Baghdad on August 27, 2020. Parly held talks in Baghdad today, pledging continued support for Iraq's fight against remnants of the Islamic State group. / AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE

France is a vital partner in Iraq's fight against ISIS, Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi said on Thursday after talks with French Defence Minister Florence Parly in Baghdad.

Ms Parly also held talks with Defence Minister Jumaa Inad and President Barham Salih after her arrival in Baghdad, becoming the second French minister to visit the Iraqi capital this summer after Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian last month.

“France is a partner in the war against terrorism and the Iraqi government is keen on enhancing this partnership to develop combat efficiency and enhance the exchange of security information,” Mr Al Kadhimi told Ms Parly during their meeting, according to a statement released by his office.

During a brief press conference with Mr Inad, Ms Parly said France hoped to resume training and arming of Iraqi security forces, which was put on hold due to the outbreak of coronavirus, "as soon as possible".

Ms Parly said she and Mr Inad also discussed boosting Iraq's surveillance methods, "by land and in its airspace", to squeeze ISIS sleeper cells still operating in desert areas.

"We are convinced that the fight against ISIS is not over," she said. "We are by your side."

Ms Parly was scheduled to travel next to the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

Before her arrival in Baghdad, a French defence ministry statement said Ms Parly was insistent that ISIS remains a serious challenge.
"We must continue to face up to terror. French air strikes against isolated pockets of ISIS have picked up in recent months," the ministry said.

Ministry officials said Paris was concerned about an ISIS resurgence in Iraq. They believe the group is profiting from political uncertainty in the country and rivalries between Iran and the United States in the region.