Iraq rejects conference demanding Baghdad-Israel normalization

A demonstrator holds an Iraqi flag as another gestures while they gather to mark the first anniversary of the anti-government protests in Baghdad, Iraq October 25, 2020. (Reuters)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — The Iraqi government on Saturday rejected a conference held by hundreds of Iraqis, demanding a normalization of relations between Iraq and Israel.

More than 300 Iraqis attended the conference of peace and reclamation organized by U.S. think-tank Center for Peace Communications (CPC) in Erbil on Friday.

The conference called for Iraq to join the Abraham Accords, referring to the U.S.-sponsored process in which UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan agreed last year to normalize ties with Israel.

“The Iraqi government expresses its categorical rejection of the illegal meetings held by some tribal figures residing in Erbil,” the prime minister’s press office said in a statement.

“These meetings do not represent the people and residents of Iraqi cities, which these personalities are desperately trying to speak on behalf of their residents,” it added.

The federal government reaffirmed its “consistent historic position” towards the Palestinian people, saying the concept of normalizing relations with Israel is “constitutionally, legally, and politically rejected in the Iraqi state”.

The 300 participants at the conference came from across Iraq, according to CPC founder Joseph Braude, a U.S. citizen of Iraqi Jewish origin, AFP reported.

They included Sunni and Shia representatives from “six governorates: Baghdad, Mosul, Salaheddin, Al-Anbar, Diyala and Babylon,” extending to tribal chiefs and “intellectuals and writers”, he told AFP by phone.

“We demand our integration into the Abraham Accords,” AFP quoted Sahar al-Tai, one of the attendees, as saying, reading a closing statement in a conference room at a hotel in Erbil.

“Just as these agreements provide for diplomatic relations between the signatories and Israel, we also want normal relations with Israel,” she said.

“No force, local or foreign, has the right to prevent this call,” added Tai, head of research at the Iraqi federal government’s culture ministry.

Other speakers at the conference included Chemi Peres, the head of an Israeli foundation established by his father, the late president Shimon Peres.

“Normalization with Israel is now a necessity,” said Sheikh Rissan al-Halboussi, an attendee from Anbar province, citing the examples of Morocco and the UAE.

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