Syrian and Iraqi foreign ministers discuss aid and security co-operation in Baghdad

Syria has stepped up diplomatic efforts after being re-admitted to the Arab League

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, right, and his Syrian counterpart Faisal Mekdad hold a press conference in Baghdad. AFP
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Iraq and Syria discussed their bilateral relations on Sunday, including humanitarian support that Damascus needs in the wake of a simmering, decade-long conflict and a devastating earthquake in February.

The meeting comes weeks after the Arab League agreed to end Syria's suspension from the 22-member bloc.

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad landed in Baghdad on Saturday night for talks on Sunday with his Iraqi counterpart.

He is scheduled to meet the Iraqi President, Prime Minister, Parliament Speaker and the head of the Judiciary Council, the Iraqi Foreign Minister said.

“We are happy that Syria is back to its seat at the Arab League,” Fuad Hussein said at a joint press conference.

Discussions between Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria will continue on “how to deal with the humanitarian situation in Syria,” Mr Hussein said.

“The humanitarian situation in Syria is extremely challenging and requires immediate action on bilateral, regional and international levels,” he added. The coming period, he said, will see action on how to “send humanitarian aid inside Syria”.

Last month, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad was invited to the Arab League summit in Jeddah, bringing the country back into the regional fold after years of civil war.

Mr Mekdad described the meeting with his Iraqi counterpart as “excellent” and said they discussed the “progressing” of bilateral relations.

“Work must continue to achieve more and to increase co-operation politically and economically,” he said.

Syria needs Arab support to face “the challenges we have, especially the terrorism presence in the north-west in Idlib and in the north-east where there is an American occupation of some Syrian lands,” he said.

US soldiers and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) take part in military exercises close to the tri-border between Syria, Iraq, and Turkey in Al Hasakah governorate in north-eastern Syria. EPA

“We need to solve these problems,” he said.

The two countries, which share a 600km porous desert border, also discussed increased drug smuggling and ways to increase co-operation to fight it, both ministers said.

Iraqi security forces have seized huge quantities of drugs, mainly the amphetamine-like drug Captagon, which has been smuggled out of Syria in large quantities in recent years.

ISIS militants, who took over large areas of both countries in 2014 but were defeated in 2017 in Iraq and in 2019 in Syria, are still crossing the borders.

Since the onset of turmoil in Syria in 2011, Iraq has positioned itself as a firm supporter of Mr Al Assad’s regime, unlike other Arab countries that cut ties with Syria. Iran-backed Shiite militias, who are ostensibly under Iraqi government control, have also been fighting alongside Syrian regime forces and maintain a presence in much of the country.

Iraq abstained from the 2011 vote that resulted in Damascus's suspension. For years, Iraqi officials have been lobbying to reinstate Syria.

Updated: June 04, 2023, 12:13 PM