Sulaimani Forum: Mutual respect, noninterference crucial to region’s dialogue

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Coexistence under conditions of mutual respect and noninterference in the internal affairs of other countries are conditional to dialogue in the region, participants at the Sulaimani Forum held in Iraqi Kurdistan were told on Wednesday.

During a panel moderated by Al Arabiya’s Najwa Kassem, the Arab League’s former Secretary General, Amr Moussa said that although Iraq is listening to different opinions, it rejects various regional policies, and cannot be taken over or controlled easily.

“Iraq should assert to the world that ‘we can coexist, however under certain conditions’,” Moussa said, adding that ending the bloody chapter in the region’s timeline is only possible through “respecting each other in terms of sovereignty, politics, communication and noninterference”.

In reference to Iran, Moussa said that communication and understanding are key to dialogue in the Arab world, as the region cannot be dealt with through force or intervention. Although the Arab world can have dialogue with Iran, it will “never submit under any circumstances,” he stressed.

For his part, Iraq’s former Vice President Ayad Allawi stressed on Iraq’s role in the region, saying that it should be a “calming factor” in the midst of the ongoing conflicts, adding that Iraq’s stability as a whole is achievable through Kurdistan’s stability and vice versa.

Allawi also discussed the recent defeat of ISIS in the region, saying that although the extremist group was defeated “militarily”, its ideologies still very much exist.

“When we talk about ISIS and terrorism, we haven’t defeated the political extremist ideology, we just defeated them in a military battle, and with their presence on the ground,” he said.

The importance of a “united Iraq” was also stressed on by Lebanon’s former President Amine Gemayel and Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

Siniora said that for Iraq to achieve stability and internal reform, it must unite within itself, calling for all ethnicities and religions currently present in Iraq to work together towards that purpose.

Siniora also pointed out “a problem” in the rivalry between Arab countries and Iran, saying “this rivalry needs to be addressed by reaching out to Iran”. However, he added that restoring the relationship between Tehran and its neighbors can be achieved through respecting the sovereignty of each other, without any interference in the internal affairs of any state.

Meanwhile, Jordan’s former Prime Minister Tahir al-Masri asked that the world “keep its hands off” Iraq, as it is now on the right path to build a “real democratic” state, rather than focus on authority, something he believes was “put aside without consideration” during the Arab spring, hence leading to its failure.

“With all due respect, the Arab spring started off with real people who suffered a lot from governments. Soon after, this was stolen. It started pure and genuine, and then got stolen away, like many other things stolen from the Arab world,” he added.

This year's Sulaimani Forum, organized by the Institute of Regional and International Studies, is titled ‘Iraq and its Neighbors Towards a New Regional Order’.

It is a high-level conference focused on the Middle East and North Africa region.

Iraqi President Barham Saleh and former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also attended.

The forum will continue for two days, featuring key policymakers, stakeholders, and experts, and holding thought-provoking debates and discussions on the most pressing issues facing the Middle East. Discussions are set to explore factors necessary for stabilization, good governance, and economic growth in Iraq and the broader region.