France keen to assist Iraq, says foreign minister

Jean-Yves Le Drian. (AFP)
Updated 13 February 2018
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France keen to assist Iraq, says foreign minister

BAGHDAD: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Monday expressed his country’s desire to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq’s infrastructure — damaged by the three-year war on Daesh — according to a statement issued by the Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Le Drian led a delegation to Baghdad and met his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim Al-Jaafari and several other Iraqi officials.
The two sides discussed bilateral relations and how to strengthen them; prominent regional and international issues; and the importance of France’s participation in the reconstruction of Iraq.
“I came to Iraq to emphasize our continued support to the Iraqi people in various fields, and we look forward to contributing to the reconstruction of the infrastructure of Iraqi cities,” Le Drian said.
According to the statement, Le Drian said French President Emmanuel Macron would visit Baghdad soon and expressed his country’s readiness to complete the cooperation agreement that was previously put forward between the two countries.
“We count on the role of Iraq in resolving the crisis in Syria and its cooperation with France in this regard,” Le Drian said.
Monday's visit coincided with the launch of the Kuwait International Conference for the Reconstruction of Iraq, at which Iraq presented more than 150 major strategic projects for potential investors.
The majority of European countries are seeking investment opportunities in Iraq in return for their support for the Iraqi government during its war against terrorism. Investing in the oil sector is the main target for these countries, sources said.
“Iraq will not forget the friendly countries that stood by its side and supported us… and looks forward to (seeing) their contribution to the reconstruction of the infrastructure of Iraqi cities,” Jaafari said.
“The partnership between Iraq and France is very important and we must make more effort to activate common interests and face common dangers,” he added.
Iraqi government sources told Arab News that Iraq and France have been working together to develop a “Strategic Framework Agreement,” which is scheduled to be signed this year.
The agreement will apparently include the participation of French troops in the war against terrorism; joint understandings over the demands of the Human Rights Court related to banning the death penalty against European terrorists who have committed crimes in Iraq and Syria; and the participation of French companies in the reconstruction of Iraq.
The sources added that the Iraqi army may take part in the military parade for France’s Bastille Day celebrations in July.


Erdogan picks ministers for Turkey parliamentary race to boost his AK Party’s chances

Updated 19 min 7 sec ago
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Erdogan picks ministers for Turkey parliamentary race to boost his AK Party’s chances

ANKARA: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has picked prominent ministers to run for parliament next month, strengthening the ruling AK Party’s chances of winning a majority but putting their future role in government into question, party officials say.
Many cabinet members including the energy, defense, foreign and interior ministers were named this week by the party to run for parliament in the June 24 poll, where the Islamist-rooted AK Party faces a stiff challenge from an opposition alliance.
While boosting the list of candidates, the move could affect the shape of the future cabinet because lawmakers will not be able to hold ministerial posts under the new presidential system, unless they resign their seats.
The party, in power since 2002, remains Turkey’s most popular political force, but recent opinion polls have suggested it could struggle to win an absolute majority, even with the support of its nationalist MHP ally.
The latest fall in the lira, which has lost more than a fifth of its value against the dollar this year, could also work against Erdogan if voters fear the government is pushing prices and the cost of living higher.
Erdogan is still widely expected to win the presidential election to be held the same day. While the presidency will take on greater executive authority afterwards, an opposition-controlled parliament could vote down legislation.
“Erdogan wants to win a parliamentary majority in this critical election with a strong list,” said one AK Party member running for parliament.
A survey by MAK pollsters, viewed as sympathetic to the ruling party, showed on Wednesday that the parliamentary race is absolutely balanced, with the AK Party together with the MHP winning exactly 50.0 percent. In the presidential vote, it saw Erdogan winning 51.4 percent.

MINISTERIAL CHANGES
The move to throw high profile ministers into the parliamentary race could have a major impact on the composition of next cabinet.
“Under normal circumstances, those who are in the (parliamentary) list will not be appointed ministers,” a senior AK Party official, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
Finance Minister Naci Agbal was not named as a parliamentary candidate, and three sources said he was expected to remain in the post-election cabinet.
However, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci is expected to leave the cabinet and run for a mayoral office, the sources said, while the future of Mehmet Simsek, deputy prime minister with responsibility for the economy, was undecided.
Investors have been watching closely for signals about Simsek’s role. As a former investment banker in New York and London, he is seen as one of the most investor-friendly members of a government at odds with economic orthodoxy.
The Turkish lira, already one of the weakest emerging market currencies this year, has lost another 13 percent against the dollar since Erdogan said in London last week that he planned to take greater control of the economy and that the central bank would not be able to ignore signals from the new executive presidency.
“Erdogan will make the last call on Simsek. Although Simsek’s policies are sometimes criticized, everyone knows that it’s hard to replace him,” an AK Party official said.
Simsek congratulated those on the party’s parliamentary list on Tuesday, adding in a tweet: “Onwards, no stopping.”
Officials say economic management is expected to be overseen by one of five vice presidents in a cabinet made up of 14 ministers — down from the current 21.
The changes have not yet been finalized, however, and may not be completed before the election, one of the AK Party officials said.