Iraq hosts regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran at conference

Heads of parliament from Turkey, Kuwait, Syria and Jordan also attended

The speaker of Iraq's parliament Mohammed al-Halbousi attends the Baghdad Summit, Parliaments of Iraq Neighbouring Countries in Baghdad, Iraq April 20, 2019. Iraqi parliament media office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
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Iraq hosted senior parliamentary officials from Saudi Arabia and Iran on Saturday as Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi sought to bolster his country's role as a mediator in the region.

The heads of parliament from Turkey, Kuwait, Syria and Jordan also attended the one-day conference in the Iraqi capital to discuss regional security, diplomacy and economic issues.

Mr Abdul Mahdi recently returned from visits to Saudi Arabia and Iran. It is unusual for officials from Riyadh and Tehran to attend the same events.

He has said Iraq will maintain strong ties with Iran, but also with the US and regional neighbours, many of which consider Tehran a foe.

That message was echoed on Saturday by Iraqi Parliamentary Speaker Mohammed Al Halboosi, who chaired the gathering in Baghdad. He is the youngest to hold the position.

"What binds us to our neighbours is our common geographical destiny and common interests," Mr Al Halboosi said.

The visiting officials pledged support for reconstruction and development in Iraq and for the country's continued stability after its victory over ISIS.

The nations also rejected "interference" in Iraq's internal affairs.

A Syrian delegation was in attendance because Baghdad is trying to bring Damascus back into the Arab League and boost its role as a mediator.

Mr Abdul Mahdi met Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his visit to Riyadh, his first official trip to the kingdom since taking office six months ago.

Iraq and Saudi Arabia have been at loggerheads since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990, but they have recently made efforts to improve ties.

Mr Abdul Mahdi's visit to Riyadh came 10 days after he visited Iran. During his trip to Tehran, he met President Hassan Rouhani and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.