Middle Eastern enemies among attendees at a French-backed conference in Jordan

AMMAN, Dec. 20 (Reuters) – Middle Eastern opponents Saudi Arabia and Iran are among countries attending a conference in Jordan on Tuesday, hosted by France and Iraq, which aims to provide a forum for discussing of the problems in the region.

French President Emmanuel Macron is attending the conference as a follow-up to an earlier meeting convened in Baghdad in August 2021 and intended to show support for Iraq.

“The idea is to see what path we can take to try to bring the perspectives of the parties closer,” said a French presidency official, referring to regional countries. “The idea of ​​the Baghdad format is really to bring together key regional actors to exchange views and see how we can move forward politically.”

Among those in attendance are the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Iran, regional rivals who severed ties in 2016, but it is unknown if they will meet bilaterally.

Iraq has hosted five meetings between Saudi and Iranian officials since last year, the last of which was in April, but these contacts have failed to produce a breakthrough in relations.

Tehran and Riyadh, the leading Shia and Sunni Muslim powers in the Middle East, have supported opposing sides in proxy wars across the region, from Yemen to Syria and elsewhere.

Analysts see the conference as part of Macron’s efforts to maintain a presence in the Middle East, where some of the United States’ longtime allies, particularly Saudi Arabia, are frustrated by what they see as Washington’s gradual withdrawal .

Heads of state in attendance include Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Jordanian King Abdullah, in addition to Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani and Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nawaf al-Sabah .

Ahead of the conference, Iran’s foreign minister and top nuclear negotiator met with the EU’s foreign policy chief and the EU official coordinating Iran’s nuclear talks in Jordan on Tuesday, Iran’s official news agency IRNA reported. .

IRNA gave no further details about the meeting.

Talks to reinstate Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal have stalled since September. Western powers accuse the Islamic Republic of making unreasonable demands after all sides appeared to be close to an agreement. (Reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi in Jordan and Nadine Awadalla and John Irish in Paris; Written by Tom Perry/Timour Azhari; Edited by Nick Macfie)

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