After Davos, Iraqi President Salih meets with Pope Francis, Italian leaders

Pope Francis and Iraqi President Barham Salih meet at the Vatican on Janaury 25, 2020. (Photo Credit: Twitter/@IraqiPresidency)

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SULAIMANI — Following the World Economic Forum in Davos, Iraqi President Barham Salih visited Rome, where he met with Pope Francis and top Italian leaders.

On Saturday (January 25), met with the head of the Roman Catholic Church for the third time since taking office. He previously visited the Vatican in November 2018 and June 2019.

During his first visit, Salih invited the Pope to visit Iraq and last summer it was announced that the visit was in the initial planning stages and expected to take place later on in 2020.

Salih’s office tweeted that the two discussed the current situation in Iraq with an emphasis on resolving conflict through dialogue and understanding. He praised Pope Francis for urging unity and harmony among all Iraqis.

The two also “affirmed that the brotherhood and peaceful coexistence between Muslims, Christians and other sects is the only way to eliminate extremism in all its forms” and that all religious groups in Iraq are affected by terrorism.

According to Reuters, Salih also met with the Vatican’s two top diplomats, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher, its foreign minister.

After going to the Vatican, Salih met with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, where he stressed the importance of Iraqi stability and sovereignty.

Earlier in the visit on Friday, Salih held separate talks with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio.

According to a series of tweets by Salih’s office, the discussions revolved around the current political situation in Iraq and the Middle East region, in particular related to the ongoing controversy over the presence of foreign troops in Iraq.

As of November, Italy had approximately 800 regular military and 80 special forces in Iraq to help combat Islamic State.

On November 10, five members of the Italian military were seriously wounded in roadside bomb blast near Kirkuk.

However, more recent events have thrown doubt on whether they would remain.

Following the US’ assassination of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani outside of Baghdad, many Shia lawmakers have called on caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abudul Mahdi to request that foreign forces leave Iraq.

(NRT Digital Media)