Photo taken on Feb. 25, 2019 shows the scene of the first League of Arab States (LAS)-European Union (EU) Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. More than 50 European and Arab countries participated in the two-day LAS-EU Summit. It provided an opportunity for leaders to discuss the latest developments in the region, such as the Middle East peace process and the situations in Yemen, Libya and Syria. (Xinhua/Ahmed Gomaa)
by Jamal Hashim
BAGHDAD, Feb. 25 (Xinhua) -- Iraq's participation in the first League of Arab States (LAS)-EU Summit aims at seeking greater cooperation to address its own problems and regional challenges.
The summit, which was held on Sunday and Monday in Egypt's Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, discussed political and economic issues to develop closer cooperation between Europe and the Arab world.
According to Iraqi experts, the summit is of great importance to Iraq, as the European openness toward the Arab world is an opportunity for the war-torn country which still faces economic hurdles and re-emergence of the extremist Islamic State (IS) group.
"The EU is a huge entity that has all the scientific, technical and cultural potential that Iraqis look forward to benefiting from," said Ibrahim al-Ameri, a political expert and teacher of politics at the University of Baghdad.
Meanwhile, EU states see Iraq as a lucrative opportunity, as the country needs huge investments to rebuild its devastated infrastructure, said Ameri.
Moreover, Iraq wants the influential EU to help establish good relations with Iraq's neighbors which have been disturbed by the changes in Iraq after 2003.
"The neighboring countries became a source of harm to Iraq and its people through their constant interference in its internal affairs, including interference in political process," Ameri said, referring to the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East region, as well as U.S. interference in the country.
"The neighboring countries sometimes provide opportunities for terrorist groups to carry out cross-border violent activities," the Iraqi expert added.
Notably, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has so far failed to form a complete cabinet since the country's general elections on May 12, 2018.
Many top European leaders visited Iraq during the past months to show support to Iraq and its government in all arenas.
"European economic engagement with Iraq is increasing, and is expected to continue to increase depending on the level of stability in Iraq. There is also European aid for reconstruction in Iraq and humanitarian contributions," Ameri said.
Iraq reached its worst situation after the U.S.-led 2003 invasion, a strategy that plunged the country into chaos of wars and lay the breeding ground for the IS.
After the defeat of the IS in late 2017, the EU adopted in early 2018 a strategy to support Iraq, including humanitarian, stabilization, early recovery, reform and reconciliation needs.
Abdul Aziz al-Jubouri, a professor of politics at al-Iraqiya University in Baghdad, said Iraq needs workable steps to address its problems.
"Iraq needs tangible support not only from the EU but also from the Arab League which Iraq is one of its members. It is sort of multilateral solutions and the best way to solve its problems," al-Jubouri said.
The LAS-EU summit "can solve different crises in the Middle East, and help stabilize the Arab region, which will be reflected on the security and stability of European countries," he concluded.
In his speech in the summit, Iraqi President Barham Salih said partnership and cooperation are needed to confront the challenges that face the Arab world and EU.
Salih warned that challenges, such as terrorism, violence, immigration, unemployment and political unrest, "could foreshadow worse situations."
More than 50 European and Arab countries participated in the LAS-EU Summit, which was co-chaired by the Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and President of the European Council Donald Tusk.
The summit provided an opportunity for leaders to discuss the latest developments in the region, including the Middle East peace process and the situations in Yemen, Libya and Syria.