The Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership, held Aug. 28 in the Iraqi capital, provided great support for Iraq in terms of political, economic and security developments.
The final statement stressed the necessity of regional cooperation in dealing with the common challenges.
“The participants acknowledged that the region faces common challenges,” the statement read, emphasizing the need to build a “basis of joint cooperation and mutual interests in accordance with the principles of good neighborliness."
The attendees also agreed to “form a follow-up committee comprised of foreign ministers of participating countries, to prepare for periodic future conference sessions and to discuss strategic economic and investment projects proposed by Iraq.”
The conference was attended by French President Emmanuel Macron, Jordanian King Abdullah, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emirati Vice President and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid, and Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran were represented by their foreign ministers.
In the international aspect, the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Gulf Cooperation Council were represented by their secretary-generals who gave statements in support of Iraq and regional cooperation and partnership.
It is a historical moment to see Baghdad host such a conference with friends and rival countries, all agreeing on supporting Iraq in preserving security, reconstruction and economic reform.
The conference focused on security, reconstruction, foreign investment, climate change and political, economic and security partnerships in Iraq, supporting constructive dialogue in the region.
In his opening speech, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi highlighted his government's attempts in dealing with the accumulated crises in Iraq, focusing on the economic reform outlined in the white paper, the early elections and required international support in terms of monitoring and observing Iraq's new policy to maintain good relationships with all its neighbors. He stressed the necessity of cooperation in strategic projects that benefit all countries in the region such as railway connection, and pipeline and electricity grid connection.
Macron praised Iraq's role in the region, emphasizing that Iraq must be supported in its role to maintain peace in the region. He assured that France will continue supporting Iraq in its fight against terrorism, adding that the region already suffers from similar challenges that require cooperation and partnership.
Similarly, King Abdullah highlighted Iraq's central role in building bridges and establishing rapprochements in the region, noting that supporting Iraq is the priority of all participants.
Emir Tamim said, “Iraq is qualified to play an active role in peacebuilding in the region.”
In an emotional speech, Sisi called upon Iraqis to rebuild their country and their future through participating in the elections and taking part in developing Iraq’s industry and agriculture.
All other speeches included similar points in supporting Iraq in its national reform and foreign policy.
In addition, major historical meetings took place in Baghdad. Emir Tamim met for the first time with the Egyptian president, and also with Emirati Prime Minister Rashid. Until early January, Qatar was blockaded for a period of 43 months by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt. Iran’s newly appointed foreign minister also met with the UAE’s vice president.
The conference also received wide international welcoming, with many taking the opportunity to congratulate Iraq on its diplomatic success.
In a statement released by the White House, US President Joe Biden congratulated “the government of Iraq on hosting a successful and ground-breaking regional summit.”
The statement continued, “This kind of diplomacy has never been more important as we seek to ease tensions among neighboring states and expand cooperation across the Middle East, and Iraq’s leadership on this is historic. The United States continues to stand with our partner Iraq as we work together toward greater stability across the Middle East.”
It is still too early to talk about the impact of the conference on Iraq, as usually these types of conferences are a part of long-term work in reforming a political course of action.
Early elections is the first step that might benefit from this conference. The international and regional support to the Iraqi political process provided in this conference, in addition to international participation in monitoring and observing the elections, will provide more legitimacy to the results. The widespread fraud in the last elections led to a series of protests and crises.
The economic reform planned in the white paper cannot be implemented without international support. Countries neighboring Iraq could play a significant role in supporting the reform and investing in Iraq in different sectors.
Fighting terrorism is still a priority for Iraq, as many IS sleeper cells are still active in central and northern Iraq. Iraq needs support in terms of training and logistics and security cooperation.
It remains to be seen to what extent the conference participants are committed and follow up on what was agreed upon in Baghdad, to support Iraq in its difficult tasks in political stability, economic reform and state building and maintaining security.