Baghdad conference seen as regional turning point – jpost.com

A unique conference in Baghdad on Saturday is supposed to bring together key regional officials and leaders, including the President of France who is in the Iraqi capital. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II have said they plan to attend. It was not clear if they had arrived in Baghdad by the morning, but Macron’s plane had flown in overnight. What is important is that the regional press sees this as an important meeting. Jordan’s Al-Ghad called it a turning point. 
One official said that this “summit brings together the regional neighbors as well as other countries,” explaining that “Iraq had a special regional role.” The aim of the visit is to “support Iraq and Iraqi people,” another official said. “This period is very important for Iraq as we are approaching the elections in October.” Macron “wants to express his support for Iraq and the political process and democracy,” a report at The National noted.
On Saturday, Baghdad will host the Iraq Neighborhood Summit, with wide international and regional participation, and great hopes for the return of Iraq’s historical role in the region, local media say. “Since last Thursday, the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, has witnessed increased security and military deployment near sensitive government and diplomatic institutions, coinciding with the convening of the summit,” reports note.  

At Al-Ain media the reports note that invitations were sent to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, as well as Iraq’s neighboring and regional countries, according to Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein.
“Two days ago, Arab and foreign delegations preparing to participate in the regional dialogue summit began arriving in Baghdad, based on invitations made by Iraq to regional and Arab heads of state, as well as European and Western countries, while the level of representation of most of the countries participating in the summit alternates, according to leaks and unconfirmed news,” says Al-Ain.  
On Thursday evening, the Preparatory Committee for the Baghdad Conference announced the countries and international organizations that had confirmed their participation in the conference, while specifying a reason for not announcing the names of the participating leaders so far. Apparently, the secretive nature may enable Iranian, Turkish and even Saudi officials to meet; officials from the Gulf may come as well.
“The participating countries are Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar, the [United Arab] Emirates and France, in addition to the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation,” said the head of the committee, spokesman for the Baghdad conference, Nizar Al-Khairallah, during a dialogue table with a number of media organizations that Al-Ain news followed. 
Iraq's President Barham Salih walks with Iran's new President Ebrahim Raisi during a meeting in Tehran (credit: REUTERS)Iraq’s President Barham Salih walks with Iran’s new President Ebrahim Raisi during a meeting in Tehran (credit: REUTERS)
Iraq does not want to be an area of conflict. It has suffered from pro-Iran militias, ISIS and also Turkish airstrikes in recent years. The conference is supposed to show that Baghdad can now bring the region together. The official added that “the conference sends positive messages to the institutions concerned with economic development and attracting capital.” The summit aims to give Iraq a “constructive and inclusive role to address the crises afflicting the region,” al-Ain says.  
If Iraq is able to pull this off and bring together officials from such disparate countries as Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, as well as France, Egypt, Jordan and other key Gulf states, then it will be sending an unprecedented message.
It will also show how US leadership in the region has been sidelined. America is leaving Afghanistan and many see the US as withdrawing from the region. Washington has left many facilities in Iraq in recent years as pro-Iran militias target US forces. Turkey has been bombing US-backed SDF fighters in Syria and they are concerned the US-led anti-ISIS coalition no longer cares about them. Iraq, meanwhile, is stepping up – and so is France.  

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Baghdad conference seen as regional turning point – jpost.com

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