middle east, europe

French FM visits Iraq’s Najaf, meets Shia leaders

Jean-Yves Le Drian becomes first French FM to officially visit predominantly Shia city

  | 15.01.2019
French FM visits Iraq’s Najaf, meets Shia leaders

By Ibrahim Saleh

BAGHDAD

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Tuesday visited the Iraqi city of Najaf following an earlier visit to Erbil, the administrative capital of northern Iraq’s Kurdish region.

Le Drian is the first French FM to officially visit Najaf, a revered pilgrimage site for Shia Muslims and home to a number of well-known Shia scholars.

These include Ali al-Sistani, a prominent Shia cleric who enjoys considerable influence in terms of Iraqi domestic politics.

“France is delighted by the spirit of moderation shown by the Shia clerics of Najaf,” Le Drian said at a joint press conference with Mohamed Said al-Hakim, another of the city’s prominent Shia clerics.

The French foreign minister also commended an earlier fatwa (religious ruling) issued by al-Sistani that served to legitimize the fight against the Daesh terrorist group, which overran much of Iraq in mid-2014.

Le Drian arrived in Iraq earlier Monday. He has already met with several Iraqi political figures, including Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and Nechirvan Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Talks reportedly focused on the ongoing fight against Daesh and France’s role in the reconstruction of post-Daesh Iraq.

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