By Sohaila Barghash
Baghdad brought together lawmakers of Iraq’s six neighbours: Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, and Kuwait.
Iraqi parliament speaker Mohamed al-Halbousi and host of the summit stated, “Today, Iraq is building a promising strategic partnership with all neighbouring countries without any reservations or favouring any party.”
The regional summit comes after months of attempts by Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and President Barham Salih to cooperate with their neighbours, making sure their diplomacy does not favour one over the other.
For instance, Abdul Mahdi visited Iran and Saudi Arabia earlier this year, aiming to ensure both sides that Iraq would not favour one or the other.
Rather, the country seeking aid and investment, as well as working to expand trade with both countries, in effort to reconstruct itself 16 years after the 2003 US invasion drove the country into civil war.
Abul Mahdi emphasized in a statement that “What binds us to our neighbours is our common geographical destiny and common interests.”
Iraq is also trying to lead a regional initiative to bring Syria back into the Arab League, after its suspension in 2011 amid Syria’s uprising against Asaad’s regime.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have long competed for dominance in the region, especially through their opposing positions in many of the region’s major conflicts, as is the case in Syria and Yemen.
Although Iraq is a close ally of the US in the region, its leaders have continued to back Iran, stating their opposition to US policy objectives to isolate both Iran and Syria.
Iraq has come under pressure from Washington and Saudi Arabia in recent months amid strengthening ties with Iran, as both Riyadh and Washington blame Tehran for the regional instability.
Meanwhile, Baghdad and Riyadh have been at odds since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 that triggered the first Gulf War. However, the two neighbours have attempted to improve ties in recent years.
Declaration after the summit stated: “The stability of Iraq is necessary in the stability of the region and contributes its return with all its political and economic weight and creative human resources to its Arab and regional environment.”
Emphasising, “the importance of supporting moderation and combating extremism in all its forms, especially as it is the people of the region who pay the price of extremism”.
At the Saturday conference, the six delegations pledged their support for contributing to reconstruction and development efforts in Iraq, as well as for the country’s stability.
[20:11, 21.4.2019] +90 553 727 91 56: Israeli tanks and aircraft hit Gaza targeting Hamas
Palestinian security sources stated that Israel hit Hamas military observation posts at three locations along the frontier.
By Sohaila Barghash
For more than a year now, Palestinians in Gaza have gathered at least weekly along the border in protests against Israel, calling on Israel to end its blockade of the Gaza Strip.
And since the protests began, at least 264 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by Israeli forces, where the majority were killed during clashes.
Also two Israeli soldiers have been killed over the same period.
Palestinian health ministry in Gaza stated that 15 people were injured by Israeli fire during border demonstrations, including “two paramedics and one journalist”.
On Friday, Hamas, the ruling body in the Gaza Strip, called upon the UN to find a way to funnel Qatari aid into the Palestinian enclave urgently.
Hamas said the Egyptian-brokered truce with Israel would force Israel to ease its blockade of the strip in exchange for prevention of attacks by Hamas.
However, Israel has not yet publicly stated its agreement to the truce.
In November, Qatar committed to around $15 million a month in aid to the strip over six months.
A portion of the funds was used to pay salaries of Hamas employees, yet it was prevented amid political opposition in Israel.
Khalil al Haya, deputy head of the Hamas political bureau in Gaza said, “The Qatari funds exist and the funds allocated by the World Bank (for the cash for work programmes) exist, but the pace of the implementation of the United Nations mechanisms is slow.”
Two million Palestinians live in the small territory of Gaza, what is considered an open prison by many, crammed between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean.
For more than a decade now, Israel has blockaded the Gaza Strip over disputes with Hamas, and Egypt often closes Gaza’s only other gateway to the outside world.