Egypt, Jordan and Iraq pledge to work more closely

Leaders of three Arab states hold rare three-way summit in Cairo

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaks during a joint press conference with his French counterpart after their meeting in Cairo on January 28, 2019. French President Emmanuel Macron called for "respect for individual freedoms" during his meeting with Sisi on his first official visit to Egypt. / AFP / Ludovic MARIN
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The leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Iraq said they would forge closer political and economic co-operation after an unusual three-way summit in Cairo on Sunday.

The three spoke about co-operation at a time when the Arab region is going through a delicate phase and unprecedented security challenges, but were short on specifics.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, Jordan's King Abdullah II and Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said they were determined to work together and with other Arab leaders to find solutions to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and regional crises.

"The three leaders are looking forward to the coming Arab summit in Tunisia to restore solidarity and reinforce joint action within the framework of the Arab League," the statement said.

It is too early to say whether the summit marked a new axis or a first step towards closing ranks at a time when longtime Arab causes are being assaulted by the policies of US President Donald Trump.

Those causes include achieving the withdrawal of Israel from Syria's Golan Heights or the creation of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

But the decision of the three leaders to meet is also evidence of Egypt's growing stature in the region under Mr El Sisi, who advocates an uncompromising fight against militancy and backs the strengthening of state institutions to guarantee stability and security.

Jordan and Egypt consider Iran's growing influence in the Arab world, especially in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, with serious concern.

But the Cairo summit reflects new parameters, at least in Iraq, an energy-rich nation that must find billions of dollars to rebuild after the ruinous war against ISIS.

After the end in 2014 of the eight-year rule of former prime minister Nouri Al Maliki, a close Iranian ally distrusted by some Arab leaders, Baghdad has sought to reconcile with regional  powers such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, first under Mr Al Maliki's successor, Haider Al Abadi, and now Mr Abdul Mahdi.

In their statement the three leaders emphasised their support for Iraq's reconstruction and the return home of its displaced citizens.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Sunnis fled their homes in the central, western and northern regions when ISIS swept through in 2014.

Many are yet to go home and some complain that bureaucratic hurdles and security concerns are preventing their return.

State institutions, the joint statement said, must be strengthened because they are the "real guarantees against the threat of terrorism and sectarianism".