Energy, Saudi ties to top Iraqi PM’s agenda on visit to Iran: report

September 11, 2021 - 18:9

TEHRAN - Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi will meet Iran’s president on Sunday in Tehran to discuss issues including energy and Iran-Saudi relations, a government source said Friday.

The visit will mark Kadhimi’s first meeting with Ebrahim Raisi since he took office last month and comes ahead of Iraq’s October 10 legislative polls.

Kadhimi will raise “issues of security, energy, and relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran” with Raisi, a government source said, requesting anonymity, according to The Arab Weekly.

Baghdad has been brokering talks since April between U.S. ally Riyadh and Tehran on mending ties severed in 2016.

“The position of Iran is transparent and quite friendly,” Ambassador Masjedi remarks. Last month Iraq hosted a summit of regional leaders, attended by the foreign ministers of Iran and Saudi Arabia as well as French President Emmanuel Macron.

A politician close to the premier said Iraq, which hosted the private meetings earlier this year between Saudi and Iranian officials, had received "positive signals" from Tehran and Persian Gulf states that they were ready for more direct discussions.

"We have always welcomed improving ties with regional countries such as Saudi Arabia, and it is a priority of our President Raisi's foreign policy," said a senior Iranian official.

Iran’s ambassador to Baghdad, Iraj Masjedi  has said so far Iraq has hosted three rounds of talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia, ISNA reported on August 31.

Masjedi also said the fourth round of talks will be held in Baghdad. He said it will be the first meeting since Raisi took power in Iran.

The diplomat did not give details about the ranking of the negotiators.

Ambassador Masjedi called Iran a great country with a rich civilization which is ready for dialogue with countries, including Saudi Arabia.

“Iran has announced its readiness for negotiations and peace and has extended its hand for helping neighboring countries and the region,” the ambassador remarked.

Masjedi added that there should be no worries about Iran, saying it is the enemies which have been promoting Iranophobia.

“The position of Iran is transparent and quite friendly,” the ambassador remarked.

“Energy talks”

Iraq is highly dependent on Iranian imports and the Islamic Republic supplies a third of Iraq’s gas and electricity needs. However, Baghdad currently owes Tehran six billion dollars for energy supplied.

Sunday’s meeting is also expected to address the issue of visas for Iranian pilgrims travelling to Shia holy sites in Iraq.

Iraqi authorities late Thursday announced new quotas for foreign pilgrims for the Arbaeen pilgrimage in the Shia shrine city of Karbala later this month.

Kadhimi’s office said that 60,000 Iranian pilgrims would be allowed to attend, up from 30,000 previously announced.

Arbaeen marks the end of the 40-day mourning period for the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (AS), grandson of the Prophet Mohammed (S), by the forces of the caliph Yazid in 680 AD.

The number of visas issued to foreign pilgrims has dropped sharply in the past two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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