AFP: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Iraq’s neighbours on Wednesday that the entire Middle East’s stability was at stake in the upcoming international conference to be held in Egypt. by Sylvie Lanteaume
SHANNON, Ireland, May 2, 2007 (AFP) – US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Iraq’s neighbours on Wednesday that the entire Middle East’s stability was at stake in the upcoming international conference to be held in Egypt.
“The most important message that I will be delivering is that a stable, unified and democratic Iraq is an Iraq that will be a pillar of stability in the Middle East and an Iraq that is not stable and not an Iraq for all people will be a source of instability for the region,” she said.
Rice was speaking to reporters during a stopover in Ireland on her way to Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where she will take part in multilateral talks aimed at ending the bloodshed in Iraq.
“So the region has everything at stake here. Iraq’s neighbours have everything at stake here,” Rice said.
“But not all states we believe are acting in the interest of a stable and unified Iraq. And so it’s very important for the neighbours to get together and to make that commitment and then to act on that commitment,” she explained.
She was referring to Syria and Iran, who have been accused by Washington of funding the Sunni insurgency and Shiite militias respectively, and which are believed to hold the key to Iraq’s stability.
Washington has also been seeking to increase Saudi Arabia’s involvement in attempts to curb the spiralling violence.
Rice is expected to arrive in Sharm el-Sheikh later Wednesday for preliminary talks.
The two-day conference starts in earnest on Thursday with the launch of the International Compact with Iraq (ICI), an initiative providing a framework for Iraq’s security and economic development.
The second day of the conference will focus on bringing all of Iraq’s neighbours together as well as the United Nations, United States and European Union for unprecedented talks.
Rare high-level talks between Washington and Tehran could also take place during the Sharm el-Sheikh conference.
“It is going to take some time to overcome suspicions in the region. It is going to take time to overcome suspicions within Iraq and those suspicions within Iraq then feed suspicions in the region,” Rice admitted.
“But it’s also an opportunity for the neighbours to be supportive of those efforts and to the degree that those neighbours have influence with important political factions and figures in Iraq, to encourage them to also engage in the reconciliation,” she added.
US Treasury Deputy Secretary Robert Kimmitt, who is traveling with Rice, was equally cautious about the outcome of the conference.
“Now not everything is going to be achieved at this meeting in terms of all of the commitments that will need to be made to Iraq overtime but I think as the Iraqis meet more and more of their targets, you’ll see more and more commitments to them,” he said.
“I don’t think that this is a one time effort to have reconciliation among the Iraqis and reconciliation of Iraq with its neighbors,” Kimmitt added.
The conference will be seeking further debt relief to prop up Iraq’s embattled economy and set benchmarks to improve governance.