Baghdad: Iraq has hosted more than one round of talks between regional foes Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iraqi President Barham Salih said on Wednesday.
Salih spoke in an online live interview with the Beirut Institute think tank. He did not provide more details.
Diplomats hope that the opening of direct channels between Iran and Saudi Arabia will mark the relaxation of tensions in the Middle East after years of hostilities have brought the region close to full-scale conflict.
Baghdad hosted talks between officials from its two neighbours and mutual adversaries on April 9 in the only round of talks to have been previously reported.
Asked how many rounds of Saudi-Iranian talks Iraq had hosted, Salih replied: “More than once.”
“It is ongoing, and it is important and it is significant, and for Iraq to be able to play that convening role between these regional actors is important,” he added, although he gave no further details on the talks.
Washington and Tehran have engaged in indirect talks in Vienna that seek to revive an international pact reached in 2015 that constrained Iran s nuclear ambitions in return for sanctions relief.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement in 2018 and imposed severe sanctions on Iran and its regional allies, as Iran-backed militias attacked U.S. forces in Iraq and a series of attacks attacked Washington The oil facilities and tankers in the Gulf have intensified tensions in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries are its close allies.
In January 2020, in an air strike in Baghdad, the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was killed, bringing the area close to war. Iran has conducted limited missile strikes on US bases in Iraq. This is the first such direct attack, but no further action has been taken.
The Iraqis hope to establish an overall regional mitigation agency to allow their country to rebuild, rather than being used as a stage for score settlement in the United States, the Arabian Gulf and Iran.
Iraq tried to control the powerful Iranian militia and deal with the resurgent Islamic State. The Sunni hard-line Islamist group occupied a third of Iraq in 2014 and was attacked by U.S., Iraqi, Kurdish forces and paramilitary personnel allied with Iran in 2017.
“The war against ISIS (Islamic State) and terrorism cannot be won by (only) military means,” Salih said. “We have succeeded in liberating our land with the help of our friends but terrorism remains.”
He added that he wished to see a solution to the Iran-U.S. rivalry that has fuelled violence in Iraq.
“The Middle East has been condemned to a cycle of conflict and instability over the last few decades… It s time to move beyond,” Salih said.