Baghdad (Reuters) – Iraq and Syria’s foreign ministers discussed ways to help end drug trafficking across their joint border at a meeting in Baghdad on Sunday, Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said.
“Today we have discussed cooperation between Iraq and Syria to fight drug trade. It’s known that Iraq is a corridor for trafficking and regrettably drug consumption has begun in Iraqi society,” Hussein told a joint press conference with Syria’s Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, who arrived in Baghdad on Saturday evening for a two-day visit.
Hussein said the humanitarian crisis of the Syrian refugees in Iraq, whom he estimated at around 250,000 people, was also part of the bilateral talks.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad received a warm welcome at last month’s Arab League summit after Arab states agreed to reinstate Syria’s full membership of the league, after it was suspended for 12 years over Assad’s crackdown on protests against his regime.
Having welcomed back Assad, Arab states want him to curb a flourishing Syrian trade in narcotics, which are produced in Syria and smuggled across the region.
The Syrian government denies any role in the trade, for which Syrian officials and Assad relatives have faced Western sanctions.
Arab governments and the West accuse Damascus of producing the highly-addictive and lucrative amphetamine captagon and organizing its smuggling into the Gulf.
The Iraqi and Syrian foreign ministers also discussed “steps Syria has achieved on the ground” to curb the illegal trade, an Iraqi government official who attended Sunday’s meeting, but did not wish to be identified, told Reuters.
During his visit to Baghdad, Mekdad will also meet Iraq’s president, prime minister, parliament speaker and chief of the Supreme Judicial Council, Hussein said.