U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney held a conference call Tuesday afternoon to tell reporters about his first official trip to the Middle East since beating Jenny Wilson for Orrin Hatch’s Senate seat last November.
Last week, Romney went to Jerusalem, the “Palestinian area,” Jordan and Iraq with fellow Sen. Chris Murphy, the ranking member on the subcommittee that covers the Middle East, of which Romney is also a member. The senators talked to leaders from each of those nations about the issues facing their people and their territories. Among the representatives Romney and Murphy met with, were Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, President Barham Salih and Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri. Romney said the leaders told him Iraq is focused on stimulating its economy; building relationships with nearby states including Saudi Arabia, Iran and Jordan; gaining control of their militias; and dealing with ISIS fighters.
“Having defeated ISIS from a territory standpoint, now means the fighters are returning to their homes throughout Iraq,” Romney said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on vacation when Romney and Murphy were in Jerusalem, Romney said, but he still found time to talk. “We spoke primarily about the peace framework which might come, or will come, from our administration,” Romney said, indicating they also discussed the thinking of Mohammad Shtayyeh—the newly minted prime minister of the Palestinian Authority—about what is needed for a peace agreement between the Palestinian and the Israeli governments.
Romney said they also talked with Netanyahu about his divisive election and the challenges he faces in building a government. The former Massachusetts governor said those meetings indicated “there was a high degree of confidence that PM Netanyahu would be able to form a government and be able to retain his leadership.”
“It was a very productive trip,” Romney concluded.