BAGHDAD: Kuwait’s chief lawmaker praised an Iraqi-hosted conference for bringing together neighboring parliaments, saying Kuwait welcomes a stable and united Iraq that is open to its neighbors. “For our part in Kuwait, we say, without ambiguity and with clarity: We are with a stable, secure and unified Iraq,” National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem told top lawmakers from the host nation, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Jordan, Syria and Turkey.
The talks “give hope to the region’s people, Iraqis in specific, that entering an age of peace and stability is possible, and that regional fighting and tension are not an inevitable fate as some tend to portray,” he said. “Strategically, we support a prosperous and developed Iraq that enjoys growth and prosperity,” Ghanem said. Iraq is a “neighbor”, he said, and it is not in the interests of its neighbors for the country to be going through a period of turmoil.
This is the reason HH the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah chose to host the Iraqi reconstruction international donors’ conference in early 2018, he explained. Ghanem described the talks as “unprecedented”, commending the “will” of the nations gathered and the “tireless efforts” of Iraqi parliament speaker Mohammad Al-Halbousi in bringing them all together.
Halbousi described his country’s relations with Kuwait as “crucial and dynamic” during the conference. He said there was “wide” understanding and that economic deals were in the “preparation phase” between the two. He said that this was thanks to Kuwait’s hosting of the global donor conference targeting Iraq’s reconstruction in February last year.
Iraqis are “no longer anxious” about being one-dimensional and are today keen on building strategic partnerships with their neighbors, without “favoritism”, Halbousi said. Iraq has signed agreements with Iran and Saudi Arabia, he said, while its relations with Turkey are “exceptional” as the two prepare for joint economic plans. Iraq is also keen to open its border crossings with Syria for trade, after doing so with Jordan.
The leading parliamentarians of Iraq’s neighbors, including Ghanem, met Iraqi President Barham Saleh. Ghanem later attended a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdulmehdi, whereby both discussed bilateral relations and means to achieve “integration and cooperation” for the benefit of both countries.
The one-day roundtable brought together countries fiercely at odds across the region. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Kuwait sent the heads of their legislative bodies, while Iran dispatched a senior parliamentary official. Hosted by Iraq’s youngest-ever speaker of parliament, the 38-year-old Halbousi, the meeting lasted just shy of three hours.
The countries pledged to support stability, reconstruction and development in Iraq, which has been ravaged by several decades of conflict including a three-year battle against the Islamic State group. “The stability of Iraq is necessary for the stability of the region,” read the concluding statement. Participating nations also rejected “interference” in Iraq’s internal affairs, although most have deep political and economic interests in the country.
Attendees did not announce any diplomatic breakthroughs, despite the summit’s symbolic success in bringing together rival countries around a single table. Baghdad has sought to market itself as a neutral meeting place for the Middle East’s competing forces. Iraqi premier Adel Abdel Mahdi recently visited both Riyadh and Tehran.
Saudi Arabia and Iran severed diplomatic ties with one another in 2016 and are locked in proxy wars across the region. Turkey and Iran have backed opposing sides in Syria’s conflict, which since 2011 has isolated Damascus diplomatically. As part of its new regional role, Baghdad has sought to restore Syria’s membership of the Arab League.