Iran’s new Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian will attend a regional summit in the Iraqi capital Baghdad with the objective of easing tensions between neighboring countries, Foreign Ministry’s spokesman said.
Saeed Khatibzadeh said Amir-Abdollahian will attend the Baghdad summit as the head of Iran’s delegation.
Earlier this month, Iran’s new President Ebrahim Raeisi was officially invited to attend the summit during a visit by Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein to Tehran.
Baghdad has been hosting talks between regional heavyweights Tehran and Riyadh in recent months on mending ties severed in 2016.
Raeisi has voiced optimism about improving ties with regional countries and has made dialogue with neighbors one of his administration’s priorities.
Last month, he said Iran believes that there is no obstacle to reopening embassies in Tehran and Riyadh.
“This policy has been announced before and I reiterate that there is no impediment to the [establishment of] relations with Saudi Arabia and all the countries in the region,” Raeisi said on June 21 during his first press conference after his victory in the election.
Iraq has also invited Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey to the summit, co-organized by France and expected to be held on Saturday.
“Even if we bring the foreign ministers together at one table, this could be considered a breakthrough to end the tensions between Iranians and the Persian Gulf Arabs,” an official close to Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said, according to Reuters.
Another politician close to Kadhimi said Iraq had received “positive signals” from Tehran and the Persian Gulf states that they were ready for more direct discussions.
Late in April, Tehran welcomed “a change in Saudi Arabia’s tone” towards the Islamic Republic, as observed in Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s earlier interview, during which he said he wanted to have a “good and distinguished relationship” with Iran, striking a different tone from Riyadh’s usual demonization of Tehran.
Observers say Washington’s proclaimed objective of rejoining the Iran nuclear deal, as a result of which it will have to remove the anti-Iran sanctions, as well as Riyadh’s failed Yemen war are the major reasons behind Saudi Arabia’s change of approach toward Iran.
US troops to leave Iraq by year end: Iraqi president
During a press encounter on Thursday, Iraqi President Barham Salih said the Saturday summit will focus on regional unity and cooperation in order to establish peace and security and expand economic relations between regional countries.
“As it is clear from the guests of this summit, we intend to become a bridge between the countries of the region in order to achieve collective goals,” he said.
Asked by Iran’s Nour News correspondent whether there is a connection between the summit and the expulsion of American forces from Iraq, Salih responded in the negative, but stressed that all US troops will leave the Arab country by the end of the year.
“Some have assumed that the summit may be a platform for the continued presence of foreign troops in Iraq, but this is untrue, and according to what we have concluded in the negotiations with the White House, the US troops will leave Iraq by the agreed-upon time,” he added.
In recent months, Iraq and the US have been engaged in talks over the withdrawal plan.
Last month, US President Joe Biden and Kadhimi declared that the US mission in Iraq will transition from combat to “advisory” role by the end of the year.
“The delegations decided, following recent technical talks, that the security relationship will fully transition to a training, advising, assisting, and intelligence-sharing role, and that there will be no US forces with a combat role in Iraq by December 31, 2021,” Baghdad and Washington said in a joint statement on July 26.
The agreement, which has effectively given a mere new name to the US military mission in Iraq, has enraged Iraqi resistance forces, who have played a significant role in defeating the Daesh (ISIS) terrorist group in Iraq in 2017.
The resistance groups demand the withdrawal of all American forces, especially the air force, over their destabilizing activities as part of a law adopted by the parliament in January 2020 in the aftermath of the US military’s assassination of two key commanders of the fight against the Daesh, namely Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).
In an interview with Russia Today published on Thursday, Iraq’s foreign minister said his country has demanded the withdrawal of 5,000 US troops by the end of the year.
Hussein stressed that the situation in Iraq is different from that of Afghanistan, noting that there is no movement like the Taliban in Iraq and that the American forces in Iraq are few in number.
“Iraq has an important experience in fighting Daesh, the collapsed terrorist organization, and the easing of tensions in the region will lead to the easing the tension inside Iraq,” he added.
He also described Iraq’s relationship with Iran as strong and said the Baghdad summit intends to reduce regional tensions.