Iraq hosts regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia at conference

Clay Curtis
April 23, 2019

"Today, Iraq is building a promising strategic partnership with all neighbouring countries without any reservations or favouring any party", said Halbousi.

Shi'ite Iran has wielded influence in Iraq since dictator Saddam Hussein's ouster following a 2003 USA -led invasion, and it backs powerful Shi'ite militias in the country.

The summit marks yet another important watershed in a recent booming of diplomatic cooperation in a region that was largely been bedeviled by bloody conflicts in recent years.

Delegations including the heads of parliament from Turkey, Kuwait, Syria and Jordan will also attend 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.

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Instead, Iraq is looking to expand trade with both as it looks to rebuild itself, 16 years after the 2003 U.S. invasion plunged the country into civil war.

"Iran and Syria were partners against terrorism and now we hope to continue that partnership in reconstruction efforts addressing the damage left by the terrorist presence", he said.

Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi said in his opening speech that "the Iraqi people have suffered a great deal from the bitterness of wars". Riyadh and Washington accuse Tehran of destabilising the region - a charge which Iran has fired back at the allies.

Abdul Mahdi made visits in quick succession to Iran and Saudi Arabia earlier this year, emphasising that Iraq would not favour one or the other in the rivalry between them.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has time and again underlined the need for amicable ties between all countries in the region.

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