Photo Credit: Kurdistan
Kurds (illustration).

Some 300 Shiite and Sunni leaders met over the weekend in a conference in Arbil, the capital of the Kurdish region of Iraq, and called on their country to join the initiative of the Abrahamic Accords and establish full diplomatic relations with Israel.

One of the participants, Sahar al-Tai, who serves as the head of research at the Iraqi federal government’s culture ministry, read a closing statement that declared, “We demand our integration into the Abraham Accords. Just as these agreements provide for diplomatic relations between the signatories and Israel, we also want normal relations with Israel.”


“No force, local or foreign, has the right to prevent this call,” she added.

The conference was organized by The Center for Peace Communications, which, according to its Facebook page, “works through media, schools, and centers of spiritual and moral leadership in the Middle East and North Africa to roll back divisive ideologies and foster a mindset of inclusion and engagement.”

Joseph Braude, an Iraqi Jew who heads the US-based Center for Peace Communication, said the participants were tribal leaders, military personnel, intellectuals, and writers from six Iraqi provinces: Baghdad, Mosul, Saladin, al-Ambar, Diala, and Babylon.

Braude is a Senior Fellow at the Middle East Program of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, and a Senior Fellow at the Al-Mesbar Center for Studies and Research in Dubai.

Braude retweeted Robert Satloff’s comment saying “in historical terms, this Iraq conference was perhaps the most significant citizen-inspired, people-to-people act of peacemaking in history. Let’s salute these brave Iraqis, who now return to their homes across the country to face Iran-backed militias and other extremists.”

Iraq’s federal government rejected the call for normalization and said the conference was an “illegal meeting,” and “was not representative of the population’s view nor that of residents in Iraqi cities, in whose name these individuals purported to speak.”

An Iraqi lawmaker said the peace conference participants were “traitors in the eyes of the law,” and Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr called on the government to “arrest all the participants.”

Meanwhile, at least one prominent Israeli spoke at the conference, Chemi Peres, the son of the late Shimon Peres who heads a foundation that was established by his father.

Sheikh Rissan al-Halboussi from Anbar province said that “normalization with Israel is now a necessity.”


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