French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian arrived in Baghdad Monday on an unannounced visit for talks with Iraqi officials on the war against ISIS.
Le Drian discussed the campaign against ISIS, in which France is playing a major role, with President Fuad Masum and Parliament Speaker Salim al-Juburi, their offices said in statements.
The Islamic State group strongholds Raqa and Mosul “must fall” this year, Le Drian said.
ISIS claimed attacks in Paris that killed 130 people in November last year and there is concern that the militants will strike the country again.
Belgium’s federal prosecutor has said that a militant cell that attacked the Brussels airport and a metro station last month, killing 32 people, initially planned to target France.
France is part of a US-led coalition that is carrying out air strikes against ISIS and providing training and other assistance to Iraqi and Syrian forces.
ISIS overran large areas north and west of Baghdad in June 2014, but Iraqi forces have since regained ground with backing from the coalition.
The militants still control significant territory in western Iraq and hold major areas in neighboring Syria.
Le Drian’s visit comes just days after US Secretary of State John Kerry vowed during a trip to Baghdad that the coalition and Iraq would turn up the heat on ISIS after the militants suffered a string of losses.
Photo: A handout picture released by Iraqi Ministry of Defense shows Iraqi Defense Minister Khalid al-Obaidi (Left) and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian (2nd -Left) during a welcoming ceremony at the headquarter of Iraqi Defense Ministry in Baghdad, Iraq, 11 April 2016. (EPA/Iraqi Ministry of Defense)