Iraq becomes ‘point of convergence’ after hosting regional summit

President Salih hails diplomatic success after Baghdad welcomed officials from the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Iran

REFILE - CORRECTING GRAMMAR Barham Salih, Iraq's newly elected president, delivers a speech at the parliament headquarters, in Baghdad, October 2, 2018. Iraqi Parliament Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE.
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Iraqi President Barham Salih said on Monday that his country has become a “point of convergence” after the success of a summit that brought together regional leaders.

Baghdad hosted a conference at the weekend where officials from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, France, Jordan, Kuwait and Qatar, as well as officials from Iran, Turkey and the EU, participated in talks on economic, political and security co-operation between Iraq and its neighbours.

“Baghdad’s Conference for Co-operation and Partnership carried an eloquent message. Iraq, which was the epicentre of conflict and rivalry, has become a point of convergence in the interest of the peoples and countries of this region,” Mr Salih told a conference at Baghdad’s Al Rafidain Centre for Dialogue.

Mr Salih said the region was in need of a new “political, security and economic system to meet the challenges of terrorism, extremism and the economic crisis”.

“The crisis that threatens our future is the inability of our economies to provide job opportunities for the increasing number of our youth and the dangerous repercussions of climate change,” he said.

Iran's new Foreign Minister, Hussein Amir Abdollahian, attended the summit and provided a glimmer of optimism for a thaw in relations between Tehran and Riyadh.

Speaking in Arabic, Mr Abdollahian appeared to hold out an olive branch to Arab states.

The Iranian politician said Tehran would like to improve relations with the region through economic and cultural co-operation, without what he called the usual interference from international powers.

Foreign influence, he said, had created tension and regional insecurity.

US President Joe Biden commended the outcome of the summit.

“This kind of diplomacy has never been more important as we seek to ease tensions among neighbouring states and expand co-operation across the Middle East, and Iraq’s leadership on this is historic,” he said in a statement issued by the White House.

Mr Biden confirmed Washington’s stance to work with Iraq towards creating stability across the Middle East.

“We remain committed to strengthening our bilateral relationship under the Strategic Framework Agreement … diplomacy must be the first tool of our foreign policy,” he said.

Updated: August 30, 2021, 2:45 PM