Shaikh Abdullah and Hoshyar Zebari address a press conference in Abu Dhabi yesterday. Zebari extolled cooperation between Iraq and the GCC, stressing that it was Iraq’s destiny to remain close to Gulf Arab states. Image Credit: Abdel-Krim Kallouche/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The UAE has decided to waive Iraq's debt of $5.8 billion (Dh21.29 billion) and backs holding the next Arab summit in Baghdad, Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced.

"An agreement will be signed soon to lay out the legal framework for waiving old Iraqi debt of $5.8 billion," Shaikh Abdullah told a joint news conference with his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari.

On holding the next Arab summit in Baghdad, Shaikh Abdullah said there was a decision by Arab leaders to this effect. "The question is when this summit can be held in Iraq, so that that summit will be successful. We Arabs want to make sure the next summit will be a step forward and at the same time keep Iraq's right to host the summit."

Zebari said the general secretariat of the Arab League will send a delegation to Iraq on January 23 to assess the situation there and the preparedness of Baghdad to hold such a summit.

There are security concerns as violence has surged across Iraq since the last American troops left the country, with a string of bombings that has left at least 150 people dead since the beginning of the year.

Car bomb attacks

Yesterday, car bombs ripped through two Iraqi cities, killing at least 11 people, reports said.

Most of the attacks appear to be aimed at Iraq's Shiite majority, suggesting insurgents are seeking to undermine the government.

The sectarian crisis in the government and the spike in attacks — such as a bombing on Saturday that killed more than 50 Shiites and an assault on Sunday against government buildings in western Anbar province that killed seven — has raised concerns that Iraq could return to the sort of sectarian bloodshed that killed tens of thousands of civilians after the 2003 US-led invasion and brought the country to the brink of civil war in 2006 and 2007.

The Iraqi foreign minister called cooperation between Iraq and the Gulf Cooperation Council members in security and military areas "good", stressing that it was Iraq's destiny to be with its sisterly countries in the Gulf.

Shaikh Abdullah said more efforts are needed to boost relations between the GCC countries and Iraq.

Discussing proposals

On a Qatari proposal to send peacekeeping troops to Syria, Shaikh Abdullah said the next Arab ministerial meeting in Cairo later this month will discuss proposals from Arab leaders including a proposition from Qatar Emir Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani.

On Iran's warnings to neighbours against boosting oil output, the two ministers agreed the situation in the Gulf was serious. "Our brothers in Iraq made efforts … they sent a clear message to Tehran about the Strait of Hormuz. Any talk of the waterways affects us all, whether in the GCC countries, Iraq or Iran. It is in no one's political, economic or military interest. We will exert more effort to detonate the crisis," Shaikh Abdullah said.

Zebari said Iraq supports resolving issue by peaceful means and dialogue.

Iran had warned Gulf neighbours on Sunday against boosting oil production to offset any potential drop in Tehran's crude exports in the event of an embargo affecting its oil sales.