“This summit has great ambitions but no one expects miracles,” said Riad Kahwaji, director of the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.
France’s role as a mediator is crucial, Kahwaji added, with Paris “keeping the thread of dialogue on behalf of Westerners with Iran, especially as the Vienna nuclear negotiations are currently in stalemate”.
The Dubai-based analyst said it is necessary to gauge the “disposition of Tehran, which plays a central role in the crises of the region from Iraq to Syria through to Lebanon and Yemen, to compromise”.
One area where there was little progress was the Saudi-Iranian front.
Despite the presence of the Iranian foreign minister there were no signs of rapprochement between Tehran and Riyadh or of Iran’s willingness to steer away from its aggressive policies in the region and beyond.
Baghdad has attempted to assume the role of mediator between Iran and Saudi Arabia. But a series of talks between the two in Iraq has come to a halt, with Tehran accusing the kingdom of inciting protests in Iran, without evidence of its claims.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Iran’s “policy is to avoid war and work to restore security and stability” and that the country is “ready to develop relations with all the countries of the region,” including “the friendly countries” on the southern shore of the Arabian Gulf.
Saudi Arabia and Iran had severed ties in 2016 and the meeting on the Jordanian shore of the Dead Sea offered potential for direct talks, but there was no word of any meeting between Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud.
One of the possible reasons for persistent tensions according to analysts is Tehran’s continued threats and expressions of hostility towards Riyadh. Esmail Ghaani, the successor to the Qods Force chief Qassem Soleimani, speaking in Tehran, Tuesday, referred to Saudi Arabia as “a scum and not worth of being an enemy”.
Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia have ticked higher since the eruption of protests in Iran with the Revolutionary Guards telling Saudi Arabia to “control” its media and Iranian intelligence minister warning Riyadh there was no guarantee of Tehran continuing its “strategic patience”.
Prince Faisal reaffirmed the kingdom’s “total rejection of any aggression on the territory of Iraq,” an apparent swipe at Iran and Turkey, which have recently launched air strikes against Kurdish groups in northern Iraq.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shiaa al-Sudani reiterated general policy statements already expressed by Baghdad. “We reject interfering in its (Iraq) internal affairs, undermining its sovereignty, or attacking its lands,” Sudani said.
He added: “We do not accept any threat to be launched from Iraq against any of the neighbouring countries or the region.”
President Macron said countries should focus on security, economy, water and infrastructure to support common concrete projects. He did not give examples of areas of cooperation.
“Collectively, we have to go beyond the divisions of the moment,” Macron said, adding that the war in Ukraine had worsened the situation in the region.
Speaking at Tuesday’s conference, Macron said France is attached to the stability of the region, which he said is struggling with “deadlocks, divisions, foreign meddling and security issues” in the interests of promoting peace and security in the broader Mediterranean basin.
“Iraq probably is, given the past decades, one of the main victims of regional destabilisation,” Macron said.
Jordan’s King Abdullah II said in his opening remarks that the meeting “takes place at a time when the region is facing security and political crises,” along with threats to food, water, health and energy security and the impacts of climate change.
Jordan has been facing domestic issues in recent days, after truck drivers launched a strike to protest high fuel prices and a police officer was killed in clashes with protesters last week. Subsequently, a shoot-out that erupted in the country’s south during an arrest raid related to the slaying left three officers and the main suspect dead.
Jordan, like Egypt, sees Iraq as a possible source of support in the face of difficult economic conditions they are going through. Analysts say, however, that despite longstanding relations with Iraq, neither country seems likely to provide services or products that can attract Iraqis, as was the case before the 2003 US invasion, when Aqaba was the main commercial port for Iraq and Baghdad provided job opportunities for millions of Egyptians.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, chief of the Arab League, seemed to express the pervasive tendency towards wishful thinking as he called for Baghdad to be left out of regional rivalries, saying that “Iraq should not be an arena for conflict or settling scores.”