Sun, 18 Aug 2019

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says the bloc fully supports Iraq's efforts to ease tensions and "avoid any miscalculation" between the United States and Iran.

Mogherini, speaking on July 13 in a joint news conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Muhammad al-Hakim in Baghdad, said Brussels appreciated and supported Iraq's policy of pursuing good relations with all its neighbors and warned against 'dangerous adventures' in the region.

'The minister and I talked at length about the increasing tensions around Iraq and the need first and foremost to avoid escalation, avoid any miscalculation, that could lead to very dangerous consequences; first and foremost for Iraq but also beyond that,' she said.

She said the EU backs Iraq's proposal to hold a regional conference between Iran and U.S.-allied Sunni-led states in the Persian Gulf region such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

'The European experience is that even in the most difficult times it is always better to sit and talk rather than to explore avenues of the unknown that can be dangerous for everybody,' she said.

Baghdad, which has good relations with both Iran and the United States, has offered to help mediate differences between the two amid rising tensions that some observers fear could lead to an armed conflict.

Hakim said that his side 'affirmed to Ms. Mogherini that Iraq should not become a battleground for this conflict, but rather it should play a role in helping solve this crisis alongside other Arab countries, especially Kuwait and Oman,' Hakim said.

Washington blames Iran for several recent attacks on oil tankers in and around the Persian Gulf, and the two nearly came to direct military conflict last month when Iran shot down a U.S. drone. U.S. President Donald Trump ordered retaliatory air strikes, only to call them off minutes before impact, the White House said.

Trump in May 2018 pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran signed with world powers and began reimposing crippling sanctions that had been eased in return for curbs on Iran's nuclear program.

European countries -- including co-signees Britain, France, and Germany -- unsuccessfully urged Washington to remain part of the nuclear pact and have not supported reimposing sanctions.

Iran has demanded that Europe help it overcome the financial hardships that have come with the U.S. sanctions and have begun surpassing some of the limits imposed on nuclear activity as part of the 2015 accord.

The Iraqi foreign minister told the joint news conference that 'the unilateral cancellation of the nuclear agreement caused a crisis that could have been avoided through negotiations.'

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi called on the EU to increase investment in his country, citing the heavy price the Middle Eastern nation paid in the fight to defeat the Islamic State (IS) terror group.

'Iraq wants to encourage European investment and increasing cooperation in all fields,' Abdel-Mahdi said during a meeting with Mogherini.

'By achieving victory over [IS], Iraq paid a heavy price. The consequences of this victory have been crucial for Iraq, the region and the world,' he added, according to a government statement.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, dpa, and RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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