Iraq seeks to quell Saudi-Iranian hostility over Baghdad summit

BAGHDAD, Aug. 25 (Reuters) – Iraq has invited Iran and Arab enemies in the Gulf of Tehran to a summit in Baghdad in an effort to ease tensions that have drawn them closer to open conflict in recent years.

Officials say the meeting, which will also discuss the war in Yemen, the collapse of Lebanon and a regional water crisis, could take a step towards Saudi-Iranian rapprochement even if they don’t. not yet said what representation they will send.

Tensions between Saudi Arabia and longtime enemies Iran escalated after a 2019 assault on Saudi oil factories that briefly destroyed half of Saudi oil production. Riyadh blamed the attack on Iran, a charge Tehran denied.

The two countries are aligned with rival forces waging war in Yemen and severed ties in 2016 – though they resumed direct talks in Iraq in April this year.

Saudi Arabia, worried that the Biden administration has relaunched nuclear talks that could lead to a relaxation of sanctions against Tehran, sees the pledge as a way to contain tensions without abandoning its security concerns over the attacks it has held. ‘she blames Iran and its allies.

Iraqi officials are hopeful that new radical Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi will attend the meeting, scheduled for Saturday, and expect ministers from the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to come as well.

“Even if we bring the foreign ministers together at the same table, it could be seen as a step forward to end tensions between Iranians and Arabs in the Gulf,” said an official close to Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi .


A politician close to the prime minister said Iraq, which hosted the private meetings earlier this year between Saudi and Iranian officials, had received “positive signals” from Tehran and the Gulf Arab countries that they were ready for more direct talks.

Three other regional sources have said they expect another round of direct talks between Iranian and Saudi officials on the sidelines of the summit, although they do not expect a breakthrough.

“We have always welcomed the improved ties with countries in the region like Saudi Arabia, and this is a priority of our President Raisi’s foreign policy. Let that happen in Iraq next week, j ‘seriously doubt it,’ said one of the sources, a senior Iranian official.

Riyadh and Tehran began direct talks in April to contain tensions as world powers held talks on reactivating a 2015 nuclear pact with Iran, which Saudi Arabia and its allies opposed for failing to address Tehran’s ballistic missile program and its regional proxies. Read more

Saudi Arabia has said it wants to see “verifiable acts” from Iran. Earlier this month, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said that an “emboldened” Iran was acting negatively in the Middle East, including Yemen and Lebanon and the regional waters. Read more

These efforts could be stepped up as the Arab Gulf states, which have long relied on Washington for their security, view with concern the resumption of nuclear talks with Tehran and the chaotic end of its two-decade war in Afghanistan.

So far, Kuwait has been the only Gulf state to confirm participation, sending its prime minister.

Egypt and Jordan, both allies of the Arab Gulf monarchies, were invited to the Baghdad meeting with Turkey and French President Emmanuel Macron.

“The prospect of a regional conflict, coupled with their perception of Washington as unreliable, has prompted the Saudis and Emiratis to pursue limited, tactical and bilateral de-escalation with Tehran,” the International Crisis Group said in a published report. Tuesday.

Additional reporting by Ghaida Ghantous and Aziz El Yaakoubi and Dubai Newsroom; Written by Dominic Evans; Editing by Howard Goller

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