Iraq and Syria reopen Embassies after 23-year rift

Iraq and Syria renew diplomatic relations frozen since Syria severed ties with Iraq in 1982.

Iraqi Embassy 298.88 epa (photo credit: )
Iraqi Embassy 298.88 epa
(photo credit: )
Iraq and Syria reopened their respective embassies, Monday, with parallel ceremonies that ended almost a quarter-century of severed diplomatic ties between the two countries. Flag-hoisting ceremonies were held in Damascus and Baghdad in the presence of representatives from the foreign ministries of both nations. "The opening of the embassy is a tangible expression of the good will of Iraq and Syria to resume full diplomatic relations, that would further increase ties of fraternity and cooperation between the two countries," said Deputy Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Taha in Damascus. Iraqi Foreign Ministry representative Libeid al-Abawi, visiting Damascus, said that reopening the embassy would be followed by other measures relating to naming ambassadors. Al-Abawi also said that an Iraqi security delegation, headed by the country's interior minister, would visit Syria in the coming days for talks. "I hope that this step would be a prelude to establishing constructive and developed relations... and to resolving all outstanding (issues) between the two countries," al-Abawi said. A similar ceremony in Baghdad was attended by Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmad al-Anrous and his Iraqi counterpart Mohammad al-Hajj Hammoud. "This is a start for solid relations between two brotherly nations who were divided by temporary factors beyond their control," Hammoud told reporters. Iraq and Syria had agreed to restore diplomatic ties severed more than 24 years ago during a visit to Baghdad last month by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, the first trip by a senior Damascus official to Iraq since the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein. Syria broke diplomatic ties with Iraq in 1982, accusing it of inciting riots in Syria by the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Damascus also sided with Iran in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. Trade ties between Iraq and Syria were restored in 1997, making commercial exchange between the two countries reach over one billion dollars through the UN's oil-for-food project. In February 2000, Iraq opened an interest section in Syria, the first diplomatic link in over 19 years, to improve trade and deliver food and medicine to the Iraqi people. More than 500,000 Iraqis have taken refuge in Syria after fleeing violence in their own country following the 2003 US invasion and the deposition of Saddam. The US administration is under pressure to engage Syria and Iran as part of a diplomatic effort to bring stability to Iraq.