Paris (CNSNews.com) – Underlining his aspirations to boost French influence in the Middle East, President Emmanuel Macron this week co-hosted a conference in Jordan focused on promoting stability of the region in general, and Iraq in particular.
En route to the conference on the Jordanian shores of the Dead Sea, Macron visited the French aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle, on deployment in the Red Sea, for a Christmas dinner with the 1,800-strong crew.
Iran’s involvement in Iraq, and in other countries in the region, was high on the agenda, at a time when the West is also concerned about the regime’s crackdown on protests at home, and its provision of drones for Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Co-hosting the meeting – the second of its kind, after a first in Baghdad in August 2021 – was Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani. Participants included Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, the leaders of Jordan, Egypt, Qatar, and Kuwait, and senior officials from Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
The meeting discussed the repercussions of international crises on Iraq and the region, saying that regional cooperation was needed in response. No specific measures were announced, however.
One of the main goals of the France-Iraq initiative launched last year is to mobilize countries in the region to help Iraq rebuild after nearly two decades of war, through the strengthening of state institutions and economic development.
Macron in an opening speech urged Iraq to follow a path other than that of a “model dictated from outside,” an apparent allusion to Iran.
Dubai-based regional security and defense analyst, Riad Kahwaji told French media that Iran’s willingness or otherwise to compromise will be an important factor, noting that it “plays a central role” in crises not just in Iraq, but also in Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.
France, he said, plays a crucial role, by “keeping the thread of dialogue with Iran on behalf of Westerners,” especially since attempts to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal have stalled.
At the meeting in Jordan, Amirabdollahian met with E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who acts as facilitator of the JCPOA initiative.
The Biden administration has since April last year sought a return to the JCPOA, which its predecessor exited in 2018, through talks in Vienna aimed at returning both the U.S. and Iran to compliance with the deal.
The process has been at a standstill since September, with attention focused instead on the protests sweeping Iran since the death in custody that month of a young woman arrested for violating Tehran’s strict Islamic dress regulations.
Hundreds of Iranians have been killed in the regime’s crackdown, and both the E.U. and U.S. have imposed new sanctions on the regime over the repression.
Iran’s foreign ministry said after the meeting with Borrell that Amirabdollahian had “condemned the Western governments for their support of the rioters in Iran and for their imposition of illegal sanctions.”
Borrell tweeted after his meeting that he had stressed to the Iranian minister the “need to immediately stop military support to Russia and internal repression in Iran.”
He said he and Amirabdollahian had also agreed on the need to “keep communication open and restore JCPOA on basis of Vienna negotiations.”