For years, security concerns and political suspicions kept the leaders of Iraq's neighbors away. But on Thursday, Iraq's prime minister picked up a VIP – his Turkish counterpart – at the airport, in a diplomatic victory for a country torn by violence just a year ago.
In another advance, Kuwait announced it will soon name its first ambassador to Iraq since Saddam Hussein's troops invaded the country in 1990, a major step in healing the painful past between the two countries.
But diplomatic progress remains uneven for Iraq, where security gains are fragile and efforts to reconcile factions after years of war and mistrust often stumble. Earlier this week, Iraq said Jordanian King Abdullah II had postponed a visit, and no clear explanation was given.
Iraq has pursued ties with its neighbors more effectively in recent months because the violence that swept the country, prompting a U.S. troop surge, is now at its lowest level in four years.
On a visit to Washington, British Defense Minister Des Browne said Iraq was heading in the right direction in the fight against militants but said it would take longer to achieve success in Afghanistan.
“We have seen a change for the better” in Iraq over the past six months, Browne said. “I have no doubt it will be a longer haul” in Afghanistan, where coalition troops are fighting a resurgent Taliban.
The ties between the Turkey and Iraq still show fault lines. Turkey has expressed frustration over Iraq's perceived reluctance or inability to hunt Kurdish rebels who conduct hit-and-run attacks on Turkish targets from bases in Iraq.