Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said his country was suffering the consequences of fighting and destruction, emphasizing the need for dialogue to ease tension in the region.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Hussein, who was on an official visit to Riyadh, noted that security and political instability in Iraq affected the country’s neighbors, including the Gulf states, while the situation in Syria also had an impact on the Iraqi interior.
“Tensions in the region affect the internal Iraqi arena, as well as the internal situation of Saudi Arabia and other countries. In order to eliminate tension, we need honest discussions and debates. National security cannot be guaranteed without the security of the regional environment,” he said.
Hussein noted that the escalation of conflicts to a state of violence leads to fighting and wars, and the result is devastation.
“We, in Iraq, are victims of devastation, whether in the infrastructure or at the social, cultural and economic levels… all of which are a result of armed conflicts. Therefore, in order to reach a healthy condition, we need security and safety, and for that purpose, we need to create an appropriate atmosphere for dialogue,” the Iraqi minister underlined.
On his recent meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Hussein said that talks have focused on bilateral relations and the various fields of cooperation between the two countries, including economy, energy, banking and investment.
He added that discussions also touched on the regional tension and its impact on the internal situation in Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
“We need cooperation and communication to manage these crises and keep tensions away from the region,” the minister stated.
Commenting on the remarkable improvement of Saudi-Iraqi relations, Hussein said: “Historically, the relationship between the two countries passed through many stages and included some gaps, but during recent years, they have been bridged and many bonds built, as these visits are evidence that this relationship has developed. There are also tangible matters, such as the interests of the two countries, the two peoples and the region.”
Hussein said his visit to Riyadh was preceded by a visit of the Iraqi interior minister at the head of a big delegation that discussed with Saudi officials issues related to border security and commercial exchange.
He added that border cooperation was further revived with the recent re-opening of the Arar crossing following years of closure.
On the need to activate the mechanisms of joint action between Iraq and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the minister noted: “First of all, we were supportive and happy about the Gulf reconciliation at AlUla summit. Its success would yield positively on the Gulf states and the region, including Iraq. We have also built bridges for cooperation and progress in relations between each member of the Council, and we have good relations with all Gulf countries.”
As for major joint projects between Saudi Arabia and Iraq, Hussein said those fall in the fields of investment, energy and electricity, petrochemicals, agriculture, housing, contracting and others.
“However, these investment projects are also linked to the political and security situation,” he said, noting that when security threats arise in a certain area, investments are suspended.
The better the security situation, the better the investments and the flow of foreign capital, he stressed, adding that many Gulf companies and investors were ready to invest in his country.
“Iraq has vast opportunities, as we need investments in agriculture, tourism, energy and petrochemicals, services, real estate and others. I believe that investors, especially in the Gulf, are waiting for a state of complete stability in Iraq in order to invest and bring in capital, and that Gulf companies can play a role in building the Iraqi economy,” Hussein emphasized.
He also underlined the high coordination in oil policy with the Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, whether through bilateral collaboration or within the framework of OPEC.
“Saudi Arabia and Iraq play an important role in this organization, and coordination continues between the two countries in all fields related to energy, as it is a vital issue for the country's economy,” he remarked.
Hussein revealed a Memorandum of Understanding to import 400 megawatts of electricity from the Gulf network, adding that discussions were underway between specialists from Iraq and the Gulf States about the means to support power stations in Iraq.
“Besides the issue of electricity production, there is another problem in the distribution networks. So we need to build infrastructure for electrical distribution networks, and Gulf companies can play a role in that,” he said.