US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has attended a rare joint meeting between leaders of Iraq and Saudi Arabia in Riyadh. The purpose was to coordinate the funding and rebuilding of Iraqi territory recaptured from self-styled Islamic State.
Afterwards Tillerson said it was time for all foreign fighters to leave Iraq – in particular Iranian-backed militia.
“We believe this will counter some of the unproductive influences of Iran inside of Iraq. Certainly, Iranian militias that are in Iraq now, that the fight against Daesh and ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home.”
Tillerson was referring to the Popular Mobilisation Units – a coalition of mostly Shia militia, many backed by Iran.
Washington is concerned that Tehran will take advantage of gains against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria to expand its influence.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, has slammed Tillerson’s remarks via social media claiming he was evidently influenced by Iran’s oil rich rival Saudi Arabia.
The secretary of state later travelled to Qatar where he had been hoping to broker a resolution to Doha’s bitter five-month long dispute with Saudi Arabia and its allies. However he said that none of the parties was ready to talk yet.
Tillerson is on a six-day trip which will also take him to Pakistan India and Switzerland.