Unemployment and conflicts that displace millions in the Middle East are “incubators” for terrorism and result in mass illegal migration to Europe and elsewhere, Iraqi President Barham Salih warned a conference in Rome on Thursday.

“Legions of unemployed youths, millions of IDPs [internally displaced people] in refugee camps, poverty and conflict are the incubators for terrorism, extremism and… for immigrants fleeing our fertile and rich countries knocking on the doors of Europe,” Salih told the MED Dialogues conference.

“This is an Iraqi interest, this is, I daresay, a Middle East interest, but it is also a European interest and a global interest.”

Iraq has been hit hard by sanctions and conflict for decades, Salih said, pointing out that his country has “historically been the epicenter of change” in the region, a “precursor for regional order, or disorder.”

Calling for a regional order based on security and rooted in economic development, he said, “We do not have to be condemned to this cycle of violence,”

– With reporting from Agence France-Presse