Spare Iraq from more war, Barham Salih tells the UN

The Iraqi president made an impassioned plea to UN member states on Wednesday

Barham Salih, Iraq's president, speaks during the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. During a meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA, President Trump and Salih discussed how best to enhance U.S.-Iraq partnerships in security, trade and energy. Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg
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Iraqi President Barham Salih used his United Nations General Assembly address to deliver a very specific message to world leaders: spare the region another war.

In his first UN speech since becoming president last October, he urged the international organisation to reinforce diplomatic efforts in his country.

“Enough wars, we are not in need of a new war in the region. The last war against terror is not yet over," he said on Wednesday.

"Our position is clear – we must champion dialogue rather than escalation”.

Mr Salih also condemned the September 14th attack on Saudi Aramco, warning that the consequences of the attack could be “disastrous”. He said that targeting Saudi Arabia was a severely alarming development, stressing that “Iraq’s security is intricately tied to that of the Gulf”.

Mr Salih held a series of meetings in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations, including with US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and King Abdullah of Jordan, where he repeated that same position.

Mr Salih began his speech by reminding the assembly that Iraq is one of the founding members of the United Nations. He said millions continue to hold hope in the UN to meet their aspirations.

One fight that Mr Salih did stress needs to be continued is that of the war on terrorism.

“We need regional and international cooperation to continue the fight against the scrooge of terrorism," he told the general assembly hall.

"The tensions in the region give a space of terrorists space to grow. We must close those vacant spaces”, he said, making a reference to Syria and the need for a political solution there. He also called for the establishment of Palestinian state on their lands, saying the Palestinian issue “is a wound that continues to bleed in the region”.

He stressed it was not just a military fight; rather a fight against corruption. “Corruption and terrorism are two faces of the same coin… corruption is the economic backbone for terrorism”, he said. He added that the fight against terrorism must include improving people’s livelihoods and ensuring they live “a life of dignity… and to find employment opportunities”.

Mr Salih asked the UN member states to remember what Iraqis have been through in over 40 years of wars, sanctions and internal strife, and called on the international community to keep its attention on Iraq.

“Iraq is about to embark on important positive endeavours," he said. "There are positive turns in Iraq which we have not seen previously, with a bright future ahead”.

The Iraqi president said the region is in need of “a comprehensive agreement to halt external intervention in countries' affairs”, adding that “Iraq will not be a place to attack any of the neighbouring countries”. He stressed that the economic opportunities possible in the region could create the interdependency needs to calm tensions.