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Jordan hosts Saudi-Iran summit in a bid to defuse regional tensions

December 20, 2022 at 1:34 pm

Jordan’s King Abdullah II (L) and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (top) look on as Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (C) shakes hands with another dignitary [KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP via Getty Images]

Jordan is hosting a summit today that brings together France and the main players in the Middle East, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, the two regional rivals, in an attempt to defuse the worsening crises in the region through dialogue.

The “Baghdad II” conference will be held at the King Hussein Bin Talal Conference Centre on the coast of the Dead Sea, after a first session that was held in the Iraqi capital in August 2021 at the initiative of French President Emmanuel Macron and Iraq.

The French presidency said in a statement that the aim of the meeting is to “provide support for the stability, security and prosperity of Iraq and its partners around the table in an attempt to move forward by improving dialogue.”

However, the matter remains fraught with risks in an already unstable region. Iran is witnessing “repression” of popular demonstrations, while Iraq has recently reached a fragile settlement after a political crisis that has drained it for a year. As for Syria, it is still an arena of confrontations between rival powers, while Lebanon is plunged by political paralysis due to a presidential vacuum, among other regional crises.

The Director of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, Riad Kahwaji, says that the conference has “great ambitions, but no one expects miracles.”

He considered France’s role as a mediator to be crucial, as it acts as the spearhead in “keeping the thread of dialogue on behalf of Westerners with Iran, especially as the Vienna nuclear negotiations are currently in stalemate.”.

READ: Iran says ready to resume relations with Saudi Arabia

The conference will be attended by Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shia Al-Sudani, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, who coordinates the Vienna negotiations on the Iranian nuclear file, and Enrique Mora, the European Union coordinator for these talks. They will be joined by Iranian Foreign Minister Hussein Amir-Abdollahian and a number of his Arab counterparts.

According to Kahwaji: “The Iranian side does not want to concede any gains, as it is negotiating on the basis of ‘what is mine is mine’ in these countries.”

The conference is a test for the new Iraqi Prime Minister, Al-Sudani, whose appointment came after a political stalemate that lasted more than a year.

The conference will be the first senior-level international meeting chaired by the official, who is considered closer to Iran than his predecessor, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.