Iraq hosts summit aimed at easing regional tensions

Iraq hosted a regional conference on Saturday aimed at easing tensions in the Middle East while emphasising the Arab country’s new role as a mediator.

Among the attendees were archenemies Iran and Saudi Arabia, whose rivalry has often played out in Iraq and other countries, including Yemen and Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia said it would be represented by its foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was also in the Iraqi capital.

“This summit marks the return of Iraq as a pivotal player in the region,” said political analyst Ihsan al-Shammari, who heads the Iraqi Political Thinking Center in Baghdad. “Having rival parties be seated at the same table is a significant step in that direction.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II arrived to participate, as well as French President Emmanuel Macron.

France co-organised the meeting, which is expected to discuss a potentially devastating regional water crisis, the war in Yemen, and the severe economic and political situation in Lebanon that has brought the country to the point of collapse.

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani arrived in Baghdad for the summit, and was greeted by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi at the airport. It was the first official visit to Iraq by the Qatari leader.

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