Zarif holds talks with senior Iraqi officials, says Iran looking for new stage in relations 

July 20, 2020 - 10:54

TEHRAN - Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday held several rounds of talks with senior Iraqi officials during his one-day trip to Baghdad, ushering in a “new stage” in Iran-Iraq relations.

“Today in Baghdad, I will have the opportunity to meet and exchange views with various Iraqi officials including the president, prime minister, speaker of the parliament, foreign minister, head of the judiciary, chief of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), and other political officials of the country, ” Zarif told reporters upon his arrival in Baghdad.

“We will hold talks with the Iraqi brothers about the cooperation between the two countries that was agreed upon during Mr. Rouhani's visit to Baghdad, as well as regional issues, American crimes in the region, the martyrdom of Qassem Soleimani, martyr Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes and their companions, and other regional cooperation issues,” Iran’s top diplomat added. 

The foreign minister also expressed happiness over the opportunity to visit Iraq after the formation of the new Iraqi government in May. He noted that Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi will visit Iran on Tuesday at the invitation of President Hassan Rouhani.

Iran’s chief diplomat also took a flight from Baghdad to Irbil on Sunday afternoon for talks with the officials of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Zarif visited Irbil upon an official invitation by Nechirvan Barzani, the president of the KRG.

‘New stage in relations with Iraq’

In his talks with al-Kadhimi, Zarif discussed the latest bilateral and regional issues as well as the Iraqi prime minister’s imminent trip to Iran, which is expected to take place on Tuesday. 

He pointed out that Iran is looking forward to a new and positive stage in its relations with Iraq, according to a statement issued by the media office of the Iraqi prime minister.

Zarif also told the prime minister that Iran is interested at the highest level in the upcoming visit by al-Kadhimi to Iran to start a new stage of cooperation between Tehran and Baghdad.

For his part, al-Kadhimi underlined the importance of developing bilateral ties between Iraq and Iran in various sectors. 

“Iraq is seeking to assert its balanced and positive role in making peace and progress in the region,” said the Iraqi prime minister. 

In addition to the prime minister, Zarif held talks with Iraqi President Barham Salih in Baghdad’s Palace. Salih stressed the depth of Iraq’s historical relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, adding that the cooperation between the two countries should be expanded in all sectors, according to a statement published by Iraq’s Presidential website. 

President Salih further reiterated the keenness of Iraq to be a factor of stability, adding that the region is in need of building balanced ties, understanding and clear vision to reach fundamental solutions to the crises in the region through engaging in a constructive and honest dialogue between all parties. 

Salih also hailed Iran’s support to Iraq, especially in combating Daesh terrorists.

For his part, Zarif expressed Iran’s readiness to help Iraq in various sectors, underlining the importance of strengthening ties between the countries in the region for the sake of peace and combating terrorism.

‘Iran-Iraq relations are strong’ 

Elsewhere in his remarks, Foreign Minister Zarif said that Iran-Iraq relations are strong and will never be shaken. 

He also pointed out that the economic relations between the two countries can be expanded for the good of the two nations.

According to IRNA, upon his arrival in Baghdad, Zarif also said that Iraq can play a role in the security arrangements in the Persian Gulf region.
At a joint press conference with Zarif, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said that he has discussed with Zarif the ways to protect Iraq’s sovereignty.

“We agreed on the necessity to protect the sovereignty of Iraq and Mr. Minister (Zarif) reiterated that the strength of Iraq is the strength of the region,” Hussein said, adding that they underlined the need to keep Iraq and the region out of international tensions.

Following up on U.S. crime in assassinating Gen. Soleimani

Iran’s top diplomat also pointed to the martyrdom of IRGC Quds Force Commander Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and deputy chief of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes, calling their assassination “a great loss” in the fight against terrorism.
 
Talking at the joint press conference, Zarif said, “Unfortunately, the assassination of the two martyrs - Soleimani and al-Mohandes - is a great loss in the fight against Daesh, and that Iraq and Iran will follow up on this issue, which is a very important issue.”

Zarif started his one-day tour of Baghdad on Sunday morning. He held at least two rounds of talks with his Iraqi counterpart. 

He also met with the head of the al-Fath parliamentary bloc. 
Upon his arrival in Baghdad, Zarif has also paid homage to General Soleimani and al-Mohandes by visiting the location where they were assassinated by an American drone strike near Baghdad’s international airport on January 3, 2020. 

Accompanied by Iranian ambassador to Iraq Iraj Masjedi and several Iraqi officials, Zarif also paid homage to General Soleimani and al-Mohandes by visiting the location where they were assassinated by an American drone strike near Baghdad’s international airport on January 3, 2020.  

General Soleimani, one of Iran’s most revered military commanders, was famous for his contributions to the fight against terrorist groups, including Daesh (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria.

However, Iran did not let the U.S. go unpunished for its reckless terrorist attack. Five days after the U.S. strike near Baghdad’s international airport, Iran launched a military operation codenamed “Operation Martyr Soleimani”, which saw Iran showering the U.S. Ein al-Asad airbase in Iraq’s western governorate of al-Anbar with tens of ground-to-ground missiles. 

Initially, the U.S. sought to downplay the strike on its airbase. But the Pentagon admittedly announced later that more than 100 U.S. service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) stemming from Iran’s missile attack on the airbase.

Zarif also underlined the need to be aware of the Daesh (ISIS) threat to the region. 

“We should be fully aware of the continued security threat of Daesh,” the Arabic-language al-Mayadeen TV network quoted Zarif as saying.

Foreign Minister Zarif visited the site where top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi PMF deputy chief Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes were assassinated in a U.S. terrorist attack near Baghdad’s international airport on January 3, 2020. Zarif was accompanied by the Iranian ambassador to Iraq and several Iraqi officials.

SM/PA

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