Bilateral engagements and sensitive issues

Josep Borrell

This week, I travelled to Jordan to represent the EU in the second Baghdad Confe-rence for Cooperation and Partnership, co-hosted by King Abdullah and President Macron. Key actors from the region discussed support for Iraq, its sovereignty and security. I also had a number of bilateral meetings, some of which focused on complex and sensitive regional and global issues.
The first edition of this conference took place in August 2021 in Baghdad. Iraq was then making its return as an active regional player after years of looking inward, and domestic conflicts to which also policy mistakes of Europeans and the international community had contributed. This conference was also remarkable for bringing together some of the often-conflicting forces of the region and notably Saudi Arabia and Iran.
This week’s “Baghdad II Conference” picked up on these efforts. We discussed in particular how to meet the aspirations of the people of Iraq and how to support the government of Prime Minister Al Sudani in delivering on these. They can be easily summarised: more security and sovereignty, more stability, and more development and prosperity. These are every people’s aspirations. And that is the main point of the Conference: bringing normality to Iraq after so many years of violence and suffering. These are also the priorities of the new Iraqi government installed in October 2022. It has presented an ambitious reform agenda and wants to engage with the EU and other regional and international partners.
The stability of Iraq is not just important for Iraqis and the region
In my speech at the conference and my meeting with the new Prime Minister of Iraq, I underlined the EU’s full support for Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the context of recent foreign incursions on its soil. The EU supports also Prime Minister Sudani’s commitment to undertake the comprehensive reforms demanded by the Iraqi people. A stronger and more democratic sovereign Iraq would above all benefit its people and the region. And the EU has a direct interest in achieving that goal, because instability in Iraq would impact Europe in terms of migration flows and threaten our economic and security interests.
To achieve this, Iraq must shield itself from malign foreign interference and be protected from being abused as a proxy battlefield, as it has been so often in the last decades. In-stead, Iraq should become a regional bridge builder contributing to reduce tensions. That is why we support the Iraqi government’s efforts to further develop a balanced foreign policy.
For the EU promoting peace and stability in the wider Gulf region and in the broader Middle East are key priorities and the EU Strategic Partnership with the Gulf has proven a useful platform for this end. As EU, we are ready to do more and better to support Iraq and the region.
Bilateral engagements and sensitive issues
At the side-lines of the conference, I had bilateral meetings with the Jorda-nian King and the Jorda-nian Foreign Minister, and with the Foreign Ministers of Bahrein, Oman, Qatar, as well as of Iran.
I met the Jordanian King and Foreign Minister Safadi. Jordan is an important partner for the European Union and an anchor of stability in a turbulent region. We are working together for upholding the rules-based international system and dealing with the damaging consequences of Putin’s war on food and energy security. We also discussed the ongoing Jordanian efforts to implement a wide range of political and economic reforms. The EU will continue to help Jordan in areas where our assistance can be useful and is requested.
With the Qatari Foreign Minister, I discussed not only regional issues and our bilateral relations – which went through a positive trend lately – but also the ongoing corruption investigations against European Parliament members and staffers carried out by the Belgian authorities. I sh-ared my principled concern on this serious issue and underlined the EU’s zero t-olerance policy in that matter. Our counterparts denied that Qatar is involved in this, that they regretted not having been officially in-formed on the allegations by respective authorities and that they resent being judged based on media speculations. We agreed to fully support a thorough in-vestigation by the Belgian law enforcement authorities and the European Parliament itself, to bring full clarity to the matter.
Iran is chosing a wrong path and new sanctions
With the Iranian Foreign Minister, we had a tough exchange on the unacceptable developments inside Iran, on the country’s extremely worrying military support to Russia and on the nuclear deal.
The EU is closely following the brutal way Iranian authorities deal with recent protests. We urge Iran’s leadership to stop the executions of arrested people and the bloody repression of peaceful protesters, and with the delivery of drones and the military cooperation with Russia, with which the country supports the illegal war of aggression against Ukraine. Tehran is aware of Russia’s ongoing war crimes, targeting civilian infrastructures. Iran is making a huge strategic mistake; it is choosing the wrong path and is destroying its credibility when it pretends not to take sides in that war. Let me note here that reacting to me stressing this, the Iranian Minister forcefully denied that Iran is providing drones to Russia and claimed that such deliveries had only happened before Russia’s attack. However, siding with Russia and the unacceptable repression of protests cannot come without consequences. That is why last week’s Foreign Affairs Council adopted new sanctions against Iran in reaction to its delivery of drones to Russia, as well as because of the human rights violations.
Nevertheless, I still believe that when it comes to nuclear non-proliferation, there is no alternative to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Those who think otherwise simply fool themselves. This is why, as coordinator, I continue working towards restoring the JCPOA based on the results of the Vienna negotiations. I talked long with Minister Abdollahian about that. I also stressed that bringing the JCPOA back to life does not happen in a strategic vacuum. It is part, a key part, of a broader picture. The Islamic Republic should listen to its own citizens, instead of repressing them. Iran must stop immediately its military support to Russia. In that regard, I urged the Foreign Minister to continue the direct conversation with his Ukrainian counterparts on the transfer of military equipment to Russia.
Josep Borrell, High Rep-resentative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the European Commission.