Iraq says it will skip US-led Bahrain peace workshop

Iraq says it will skip US-led Bahrain peace workshop

White House official declines to say whether Baghdad was invited to conference; PLO Executive Committee member Ahmad Majdalani praises Iraqi decision to stay away

Adam Rasgon is the Palestinian affairs reporter at The Times of Israel

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi in Baghdad on March 3, 2019. (Credit: Wafa)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi in Baghdad on March 3, 2019. (Credit: Wafa)

Iraq said on Wednesday that it would not attend the US-led economic workshop in Bahrain, saying it was instead backing a Palestinian boycott of the Trump administration’s peace confab.

“We are not interested in this conference and we will not participate in it,” Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad al-Sahaf told Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency. “Iraq is sticking by its firm and principled position regarding the Palestinian issue and the rights of the Palestinian people.”

The US administration and Bahrain announced in mid-May that they will host an economic workshop in the Bahraini capital of Manama on June 25 and 26 that “will facilitate discussions on an ambitious, achievable vision and framework for a prosperous future for the Palestinian people and the region.”

American officials have said that the meeting will deal with the economic portion of its apparently forthcoming plan to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a proposal whose unveiling has been delayed by political instability inside Israel and other factors.

The US has been attempting to rally support for the conference, which has come under criticism for seemingly placing economic issues ahead of reaching a political solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. The Ramallah-based Palestinian leadership has firmly rejected participating in the conference and urged other countries to also boycott it.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (C-R) is greeted by Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa (C-L) after arriving in Manama International Airport in Manama on January 11, 2019. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool/AFP)

Ahmad Majdalani, a PLO Executive Committee member and PA minister, said the Palestinians “highly appreciate the Iraqi government’s decision to not participate in this conference.”

“Iraq is standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people. We hoped that all Arab states would have adopted the same position,” he told The Times of Israel, adding that the Palestinians “do not understand any justification made by some Arab states regarding their participation.”

Four Arab states — the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and host-country Bahrain — have all stated that they will be participating in the conference. A senior White House official said Tuesday that Jordan, Egypt and Morocco had also confirmed their attendance.

Also Tuesday, Lebanon said it would not participate.

Asked whether Iraq was invited to the conference, a White House official declined to answer, but noted the US administration will provide a list of attendees closer to the date of the event.

Axios, a US-based news site, reported on Sunday that Israel still has not received a formal invitation to the workshop. Citing Israeli officials, the Axios report said that Washington had told the Jewish state that it must first confirm more Arab and Muslim countries will participate in the conference before giving it an invitation to attend.

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