Several Middle Eastern leaders and French President Emmanuel Macron met in Baghdad on Saturday at a summit hosted by Iraq, which wants its neighbours to talk to each other instead of settling scores on its territory.
Iraq’s security has improved in recent years but it is still plagued by big power rivalries and heavily armed militia groups.
The strained relationships within the region have also led to disruptions to global oil supplies with attacks on Saudi Arabian oil installations – blamed on but denied by Tehran.
Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said during a news conference that Iran and Saudi Arabia, which began direct talks in Iraq in April, were continuing their meetings and hoped for “positive results”, but gave no further details.
Organisers of the Baghdad summit said they did not expect any diplomatic breakthroughs. “Getting these countries to sit around the table – that will be achievement enough,” said one Iraqi government official.
Heads of state attending included Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, King Abdullah of Jordan, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Macron. Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates sent their heads of government, and Turkey its foreign minister.
Macron was due to stay an extra day, meet Iraqi leaders and visit French special forces fighting Islamic State insurgents.
Iranian officials have said they are focused more on the outcome of talks in Vienna with Western powers over Iran’s nuclear programme and international sanctions.
“The meeting in Iraq … is only focused on Iraq and how the regional countries can cooperate to help Iraq,” an Iranian official told Reuters ahead of the Baghdad summit.
Ahead of the summit, UAE Vice-President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum met Qatar’s al-Thani and described him as a “brother and friend” in a sign of warming ties between the Gulf rivals.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt in 2017 severed ties with Qatar over charges it supports terrorism – a broad reference to Islamist groups – which Qatar denied.
Since a deal in January, Riyadh and Cairo have restored diplomatic ties. Abu Dhabi and Manama have yet to do so.