Baghdad calls on GCC to ensure its food security by investing in Iraq lands

(Image Credit: Gulf News)

Gulf News | December 12, 2009

Zebari was addressing participants from 25 countries at the Manama Dialogue, an annual security conference co-organised by Bahrain's foreign ministry and the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

By Habib Toumi, Bahrain Bureau chief, Gulf News

Manama: Baghdad has suggested that Gulf Cooperation Council countries invest in Iraq farms to help revive its agriculture and ensure the Gulf's food security locally.

Several Gulf countries have recently signed agreements with countries in Asia to secure land for agriculture and food production following a hike in food prices and food market downturns.

In September, 10 Saudi Arabian agricultural companies said that they wanted to make the Philippines their food production hub while other GCC countries said they were looking to invest in Asian farmlands.

However, Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's foreign minister, on Saturday said that GCC countries and Iraq can work together to promote better trade and investments to strengthen their economies.

"Here is a specific example: Why not help us revive Iraq's agriculture, thereby helping ensure the Gulf's food security locally? The stronger our ties, the better we will be collectively," he said.

He was addressing participants from 25 countries at the Manama Dialogue, an annual security conference co-organised by Bahrain's foreign ministry and the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

Zebari said that Iran and Turkey were having greater levels of influence in his country than Arab countries thanks to their engagement policies.

""People are competing to engage with us, with neighboures Turkey and Iran well ahead of all the others, particularly of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Because of their vastly greater levels of engagement, it is these two regional powers that have the greatest levels and are able to reach the broadest audience in Iraq. The presence of oiur Arab brothers is hardly felt," Hoshyar Zebari, said.

"We would like to rectify this disequilibrium, but by not reducing either Iran or Turkey's engagement. We need greater engagement by the GCC and Arab states."

Zebari said that the progress in Arab states' engagement was insufficient.

"Much more needs to be done, by Iraq and by the GCC. On our part, we will very soon appoint ambassadors to represent us in all the capitals of the Gulf. Their mandates will help strengthen our ties with the GCC. We must work together to promote better trade and investment to strengthen our economies, better security cooperation to combat the threat of terrorism, better policy coordination to defend the interests of our region internationally," he said.
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