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Middle East summit in Jordan hopes to defuse regional tensions

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The Middle East summit kicked off in Jordan on Tuesday, where regional and international players hope to help resolve key regional crises, especially in Iraq.

The Baghdad II meeting, which also includes French and European Union officials, follows an August 2021 summit in the Iraqi capital, hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron.

Iraq has only recently come to a fragile compromise government after a year of political stagnation.

The summit, held in Swaim on the shores of the Dead Sea, was aimed at providing “support for the stability, security and prosperity of Iraq,” the French president said in a statement, adding that he hoped it would benefit “the entire region.” ”

The meeting comes as several countries in the region are mired in turmoil.

Syria remains a battleground for geopolitical interests, while Lebanon is stuck in an economic and political quagmire.

For more than three months, Iran has brutally suppressed a wave of popular demonstrations sparked by the September 16 death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

The meeting was also attended by senior EU diplomat Josep Borrell, who mediated negotiations aimed at resurrecting the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Borrell met with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on Tuesday ahead of the official launch of the summit.

A European diplomat tweeted that the meeting was “essential… against the backdrop of deteriorating relations between Iran and the EU” and that they agreed to keep in touch.

“No one expects miracles”

In Baghdad II, Jordan will host the new Prime Minister of Iraq, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, the Foreign Minister of Iran, and delegations from Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Jordan, which has seen strikes and protests against rising fuel prices in recent days, said the army would be deployed on the road from Amman airport to the Dead Sea convention center, about 50km west of the capital.

“This summit has big ambitions, but nobody expects miracles,” said Riad Kahwaji, director of the Institute for Military Analysis of the Middle East and the Gulf.

France’s role as a mediator is critical, Kahwaji said, as Paris “maintains a thread of dialogue on behalf of Westerners with Iran, especially since nuclear talks in Vienna are currently deadlocked.”

A Dubai-based analyst said that Tehran’s “settlement, which plays a central role in crises in the region from Iraq to Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, towards compromise” needs to be assessed.

Iran’s involvement in the Ukrainian conflict through the supply of drones to Russia further complicates the discussion, Kahwaji said.

Tehran has accused regional rival Saudi Arabia, with which it has had no diplomatic relations since 2016, of fueling unrest in Iran as protests rage on.

Ahead of the summit, Iranian leader Amir Abdollahian said Tehran was “ready to return to normal relations” with Riyadh “whenever the Saudi side is ready for it.”

Test for Iraq

The conference is also a test for Iraqi al-Sudani, who was appointed prime minister in late October after more than a year of political stagnation.

Sudani is considered closer to Iran than his predecessor, Mustafa al-Kademi, and this is the first major international meeting of Sudan.

In a statement, the French president said he hoped for “continuity” from the new Iraqi leader.

Hamzeh Hadad, a visiting scholar at the European Council on Foreign Relations, believes that the first summit in 2021 should have allowed Kadhemi to show that he can “bring the leaders of neighboring countries, in particular the Gulf states, to Baghdad.”

During this meeting, Sudani will have to demonstrate that “he can maintain this relationship and show that it does not depend on personal ties,” Hadad said.

“I think both Iraqis and non-Iraqis would like to see a more serious agenda for this conference this time,” he added.

The meeting is also expected to address issues such as global warming, food security, water resources and energy cooperation.

Macron will also meet Jordan’s King Abdullah II, an “ally in the fight against terrorism”, according to Paris.

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