Iran, Iraq to increase trade to $20 billion

July 21, 2020 - 18:20

TEHRAN - Heading a high-ranking politico-economic delegation, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi visited Tehran on Tuesday to discuss bilateral ties and hold talks on other pressing issues.

The Iraqi prime minister was welcomed at Mehrabad Airport by Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian. The private talks between al-Kadhimi and President Hassan Rouhani immediately began after the official welcoming ceremony was held on Tuesday noon. 
During his two-day visit, al-Kadhimi was going to discuss how to strengthen ties between Iran and Iraq as well as their cooperation in a number of fields, the Iraqi prime minister’s media office said in statement published shortly after al-Kadhimi left Baghdad for Tehran. 

Several senior Iraqi officials including Minister of Finance and Prime Minister Assistant for Economic and Energy Affairs Ali Abdul Amir Allawi, Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein, Petroleum Minister Ehsan Abdul Jabar, Health Minister Hassan Mohammad al-Tamimi, Minister of Planning Khaled Battal, Defense Minister Joma Enad, Electricity Minister Majed Hantoush, National Security Advisor Qassem al-Araji and Head of Trade Bank of Iraq Faisal al-Haimus are accompanying the prime minister on his first visit to a foreign country since taking office.
  
The prime minister’s visit to Iran came on the heels of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s trip to Iraq on Sunday.  
Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the Iranian government implicitly welcomed Iraq’s reported efforts to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia, saying that Iran supports any initiative to deescalate tensions in the region. 

Speaking at a weekly press conference on Tuesday, Ali Rabiei said, “As we had previously announced, we welcome any initiative aiming to resolve the disagreements among the region’s nations. This is a general rule. We support all our neighbors who have some offers for regional cooperation with other countries.”

Prime Minister al-Kadhimi says, “We fought against terrorism and Takfiri groups, and Iran was the first country to stand by Iraq in this fight. We will not forget this.”

Rouhani and al-Kadhimi held a private meeting after the welcoming ceremony. Simultaneously, the Iraqi officials separately discussed issues of mutual interest with their Iranian counterparts. Rouhani and al-Kadhimi attended a joint press conference at the end of their discussions. 

Rouhani said that Iran and Iraq are willing to increase bilateral trade to $20 billion up from the current $12 billion. 
“The two nations are willing to increase the trade between the two countries to $20 billion. The two countries are also determined to implement all terms of the agreements approved by the two governments in March 2019 in Baghdad,” Rouhani said at the joint press conference.

The president noted that these agreements include economic infrastructure projects such as dredging Arvand Roud border waterway and completing the railway project connecting the Iraqi city of Basra and the Iranian city of Shalamcheh. 
Rouhani also added that al-Kadhimi assumed office in “very sensitive circumstances”, however, trade ties between Iran and Iraq have witnessed a “good” improvement over the past few months of al-Kadhimi’s premiership. 

Iran’s promise to Iraq

The president also discussed the novel coronavirus with the Iraqi prime minister and pledged to support Iraq in combating the virus. 
“Today, we talked about the health condition in the region, including the coronavirus issue. The Islamic Republic of Iran is making this promise to the Iraqi government and nation that it will support the Iraqi nation with all its capabilities in terms of [supplying] health and medical supplies,” Rouhani stated. 
He also noted that Iran has enough capabilities to meet Iraq’s needs by providing it with medicine. Rouhani expressed Iran’s readiness to facilitate consultations between health officials of the two countries.

Security cooperation

The president reiterated Iran’s support for Iraq in the fight against terrorism. 
“We are ready to work hand in glove with the Iraqi nation to ensure the stability and security of Iraq and the region,” he pointed out. 
Rouhani also said that IRGC Quds Force commander Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and deputy chief of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes were two champions of the fight against terrorism who worked for the stability of Iraq.
The two commanders were martyred in a U.S. terror attack near Baghdad’s international airport on January 3.
Rouhani also said that he discussed with the Iraqi prime minister regional issues and the role that Iraq could play in the region as a powerful Arab country.

PM Kadhimi: Iraq won’t let any threat against Iran from Iraqi soil

For his part, al-Kadhimi told reporters that his visit to Tehran was aimed at strengthening ties between Iran and Iraq. 
“The Iraqi people are eager to have cooperative relations with Iran on the basis of the principle of non-interference in internal affairs,” Al-Jazeera news network quoted al-Kadhimi as saying. 
The prime minister added, “We fought against terrorism and Takfiri groups, and Iran was the first country to stand by Iraq in this fight. We will not forget this. That’s why Iraq is standing by Iran so that it tackles its economic challenges. Iraq has become a market for Iranian goods.”

Al-Kadhimi also said that his country will not allow any threat against Iran from the Iraqi soil.

SM/PA

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