Afghanistan overshadows Iraq summit as Macron warns against IS

Baghdad: The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan overshadowed a summit in Iraq Saturday attended by key regional leaders, with French President Emmanuel Macron warning of the threat Islamic State group jihadists pose.

The meeting comes as Iraq, long a casualty of jihadist militancy, also tries to establish itself as a mediator between Arab countries and Iran.

“We all know that we must not lower our guard, because Daesh (IS) remains a threat, and I know that the fight against these terrorist groups is a priority of your government,” Macron said, after a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi.

Iraq and France “are key partners in the war against terrorism,” Kadhemi replied.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah II flew in for the summit, while the foreign ministers of regional foes Iran and Saudi Arabia were also present.

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, as well as Kuwait’s Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah and Turkey’s foreign minister were also present.

‘More urgent than ever’

Iraq is seeking to play a “unifying role” to tackle crises shaking the region, sources close to Iraq’s Kadhemi said.

Oil-rich Iraq has been caught for years in a delicate balancing act between its two main allies, Iran and the United States.

Iran exerts major clout in Iraq through allied armed groups within the Hashed al-Shaabi, a powerful state-sponsored paramilitary network.

Baghdad has been brokering talks since April between US ally Riyadh and Tehran on mending ties severed in 2016.

“It was really not easy to put the Saudis and Iranians in the same room,” a French diplomatic source said.

But an adviser to Kadhemi said that just the presence of the two foreign ministers together was itself a “success”.

Macron aims to highlight France’s role in the region and its determination to press the fight against terrorism, his office said.

The French president considers Iraq “essential” to stability in the troubled Middle East, it added. – AFP