BAGHDAD — Arab leaders assembled in Baghdad on Thursday for a landmark summit marked by lavish hospitality, speeches hailing Iraq’s return to the Arab fold — and a rocket explosion at the Iranian Embassy on the edge of the fortified Green Zone, where the gathering was taking place.
It was a day full of symbolism for a newly assertive Iraq, anxious to shed its reputation as the region’s outcast, a country too dangerous, too dysfunctional and too tainted by its associations with both Iran and the United States to accomplish anything so ambitious as a summit attended by Arab heads of state.
Arab leaders, wearing traditional robes, swept along red carpets through the opulent, exquisitely renovated Republican Palace, which until a few years ago housed U.S. soldiers and diplomats. Bowing waiters offered trays of tea and juice to dignitaries as they stepped out of limousines. The menu served at the banquet featured dates coated in 24-carat gold as Iraq endeavored to show it was up to the extravagant standards typically set by the annual event.
“This is a nation that was distanced, overlooked, boycotted, sanctioned,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said at a news conference after the event. “And now it is back.”
Full Arabic text of the Baghdad Declaration of the Summit via Reidar Visser
We the leaders of Arab States meeting at the 23rd summit of the League of Arab States at Baghdad, the Republic of Iraq, 29th March, 2012, declare the following: