French FM urges Iraq to keep away from regional tensions

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Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein (R) receives his French couterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, on July 16, 2020. (AFP)
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French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (R), meets with his Iraqi counterpart in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, on July 16, 2020. (AFP)
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Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein (R) receives his French couterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, on July 16, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 16 July 2020

French FM urges Iraq to keep away from regional tensions

  • Baghdad “should dissociate itself from regional tensions,” Le Drian warned after meeting with his Iraqi counterpart
  • The world should not drop its guard against Daesh, Le Drian said

BAGHDAD: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged Baghdad on Thursday to “dissociate” itself from boiling regional tensions, hinting at dissatisfaction with unilateral Iranian and American strikes on Iraqi territory.
Iraq has been caught for years in the power struggle between its two main allies Washington and Tehran, but has had to walk an increasingly fine line since 2018, when the US began a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.
In January, a US drone strike on Baghdad killed top Iranian and Iraqi officials, and Tehran retaliated with strikes against American troops based in western Iraq.
Baghdad “should dissociate itself from regional tensions,” Le Drian warned after meeting with his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein.
France has been a top member of the US-led coalition fighting Daesh, which Iraq declared defeated in late 2017 after three years of warfare.
“The world should not drop its guard against the Islamic State group,” Le Drian said.
“The coalition’s aim at its core is to fight IS, and it should for no reason be derailed from this central mission,” he added.
His comments appeared to hint at widespread frustration among Western diplomats at Washington’s unilateral strikes against Iran-backed armed groups in Iraq.
They fear that these attacks would prompt a backlash against the coalition as a whole, not just US soldiers.
Following the US killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis in January, Iraq’s parliament voted to oust all foreign troops.
Le Drian is the first Western diplomat to visit Baghdad since Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi took office in May, although he has traveled to Iraq on many occasions.
He is also expected to meet Al-Kadhimi and Iraqi President Barham Saleh on his one-day visit.
He said France “backed (Al-Kadhimi’s) first decisions,” including efforts to fight government corruption and rein in rogue groups firing rockets at foreign troops and diplomats.
France would also facilitate $1.1 billion for “major projects in construction, transportation, energy and water,” Le Drian announced.
Iraq’s public infrastructure has been worn down by years of warfare and poor investment, but low oil prices have forced it to cut state spending on improving services.


Libya’s GNA govt detains 35 Egyptian fishermen

Updated 12 August 2020

Libya’s GNA govt detains 35 Egyptian fishermen

  • The GNA is still holding the fishermen without a clear accusation to justify their detention

CAIRO: The fate of at least 35 Egyptian fishermen hangs in the balance after they were arrested by the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) on Nov. 2 last year.  

The families of the fishermen have appealed to the Egyptian government to step up their efforts to secure their freedom as Cairo has been working on their release since November.

Little is known about the fate of the fishermen in Libya other than their location, after it was leaked to Egyptian authorities that they were held in the Turmina Prison, which is affiliated with the GNA.

The head of the Fishermen’s Syndicate in Kafr El-Sheikh, Ahmed Nassar, said they had not been able to communicate with the fishermen since last November and after their disappearance they came to learn that the GNA authorities had detained them.

The GNA is still holding the fishermen without a clear accusation to justify their detention. Nassar said that the fishermen were not fishing in Libyan territory without a permit.

Nassar explained that the fishermen were working on Libyan boats. Alongside them were a number of colleagues working on boats that belong to the Al-Wefaq government. They were not approached by anyone unlike their detained colleagues who were arrested and sent to prison without being charged with any crime.

The Fishermen’s Syndicate chief said that people had called on the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the government, and the consular section had also been contacted about the matter.

Many of the detained fishermen come from Kafr El-Sheikh, while others come from Abu Qir in the governorate of Alexandria.

The fishermen had been supporting families of up to eight members.

Egyptian authorities say they are exerting great efforts to bring the fishermen back safely, while the fishermen’s families continue to demand safety and justice for the men.