Global Policy Forum

Jordan Gives Iraq Diplomatic Boost

November 1, 2000

The Jordanian Prime Minister, Ali Abu Ragheb, is in Baghdad on a landmark visit, the first Arab head of government to go there since international sanctions were imposed 10 years ago. Defying an air embargo, Mr Ragheb flew into Baghdad international airport, which has received dozens of foreign flights since it re-opened in August.

The Jordanian prime minister - along with what Iraq says are representatives from more than 40 countries - is attending the biggest trade fair to be held in Baghdad for a decade.

A BBC correspondent says Iraq sees the Jordanian visit, which undermines the sanctions imposed on the country, as a significant step out of its long international and regional isolation.

International delegates

Our correspondent says most Arab governments are facing public pressure over the suffering of ordinary Iraqis and now want to re-engage with Baghdad. A Western diplomat posted in Baghdad quoted by the French news agency AFP said the international presence in the country was a "large qualitative step for Iraq which has managed to break the embargo."

"The large turnout and number of planes have turned Baghdad into an open capital, not one under siege," he said.

Iraq's state news agency said an unprecedented tally of 14 ministers and senior officials from Arab countries took part in the opening ceremony of the fair on Wednesday. It said the fair also saw eight countries make their debut: Armenia, Belgium, Brazil, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Romania and Venezuela.

Sanctions crumbling

An Iranian delegation was also present, marking a further thaw in relations between the two countries, which have recently held high-level talks.

Meanwhile, a British Government minister, Peter Hain, has criticised the recent wave of solidarity flights to Iraq, many of which have carried humanitarian aid in protest against the sanctions. Mr Hain was quoted as saying that friends of the Iraqi people would be best advised to support United Nations moves to suspend sanctions.

The first challenge to the UN embargo was made by France and Russia in late September, both of which sent humanitarian aid to the country. Since then, a number of countries, including Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey, Morocco, Yemen, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates, have sent flights.

The UN embargo can be lifted only after Iraq proves it has destroyed all its weapons of mass destruction. Baghdad says it has done so, but it refuses to co-operate with UN arms inspectors. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council disagree on whether non-commercial flights need to be authorised.

More Information on Civilian Flights to Iraq
More Information on Sanctions Against Iraq


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