France is involved in efforts to recapture Tal Afar in western Mosul city from the clutches of Daesh terrorist organization, Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said Saturday, who said 70 percent of the district had been liberated.
Tal Afar is located roughly 60 kilometers (37 miles) east of the Iraq-Syria border.
Speaking at a joint news conference with his French counterpart and French defense minister in capital Baghdad, al-Jaafari said he expected the entire district to be liberated soon.
On Sunday, the Iraqi government launched a major offensive to retake Tal Afar, involving army troops, federal police units, counter-terrorism forces and armed members of Hashd al-Shaabi -- a largely Shia force that was incorporated into the Iraqi army last year.
About the French role in the current military operation in Tal Afar, al-Jaafari said: “France has provided logistic and aerial support in the battles against Daesh.
“We call for more cooperation between Iraq and France, and other countries, to prevent Daesh organization members from fleeing and not allowing them to carry out terrorist operations in other countries,” he added.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly congratulated Iraqis and the authorities for “their commitment to the war against Daesh,” saluting what he termed as “the great victory in Mosul".
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Last month, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi formally declared victory against Daesh in Mosul following a nine-month military operation backed by the U.S.-led international coalition.
"All efforts are now focused on liberation of Tal Afar and I have no doubt about victory that is being achieved by the Iraqi forces with the international coalition’s support," Parly said.
"France in the framework of the coalition is strongly committed in training and operational matters.
"French troops through the international coalition have provided air support as well as artillery in the battles of Tal Afar, and we came today to Iraq to confirm the continuation of French support for Iraq in the next phase."
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Iraq was now in the phase between the end of war and the beginning of reconciliation.
About the French stance on the Syrian crisis, Le Drian said France supports four principles to resolve the Syrian crisis: first emphasizing respect for all Syrian and non-Syrian parties, and not to use chemical weapons; the second is to guarantee humanitarian aid and the third is cease-fire on all Syrian territories.
The fourth French principle is “there is no a precondition in the political process for the departure of Bashar al-Assad, but there is a transitional process during which a new constitution will be chosen and elections will be held, and this is our position that we defend at the United Nations”.
French ministers had arrived in Baghdad early morning.
Meanwhile, Lt. Col. Khalid Suhail al-Nasseri told Anadolu Agency: "The federal police forces, the rapid response units and the Hashd al-Shaabi have now completed the combat tasks in the western axis of Tal Afar after completing all missions they were assigned to carry out to liberate the neighborhoods.
"The Iraqi army and counterterrorism forces are currently completing their combat missions in the northern and eastern parts of the Tal Afar district."
In a statement on Saturday, Abdulemir Yarullah of Operations Command in Tal Afar said: “Anti-terror forces has retaken Tal Afar Citadel and Tal Afar Forestry from Daesh.”
A predominantly Turkmen district, Tal Afar was overrun by Daesh in mid-2014, along with vast territories in northern and western Iraq.
In advance of the Tal Afar operation, the Iraqi army had amassed 400,000 troops and personnel outside the district in preparation for “liberating” it from Daesh.
Reporting by Muayad al-Tarfi and Amir al-Saadi; Writing by Sibel Ugurlu
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