Iran and Iraq agree to strengthen relations at high-level meetings | Middle East

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Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein concluded a two-day diplomatic trip to Tehran, during which he met with senior Iranian officials to discuss strengthening political and economic relations and the role of the United States in the region .On Saturday, Hussein met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Speaker of Parliament Mohammed Bagher Ghalibaf.

The high-level meetings took place after Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in Tehran in July on his first trip abroad since taking office in early May after nearly six months of political stalemate.

Rohani told Hussein that Iran fully supports the unity between Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish factions in Iraq and said American troops are a destabilizing factor in the region.

“We consider the presence of American armed troops in the region, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan or in the countries of the southern Persian Gulf, as detrimental to the security and stability of the region,” he said. , according to the president’s website.

It is incumbent not only on Iran, but on any country with US forces on its soil, to try to end this presence, Rouhani said, adding that Iran supports a vote by the Iraqi parliament to expel the troops. American.

In early January, the United States assassinated Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on Iraqi soil, bringing Iranian-American tensions to a boiling point.

Soleimani, considered Iran’s second most powerful man and a revered figure, was accompanied by Iraqi politician and military commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and a number of other Iranian soldiers when an ordered US drone strike by President Donald Trump hit their convoy. in Baghdad.

The unexpected move sparked large protests in Iran and Iraq, and the Iraqi parliament quickly voted to expel more than 5,000 US troops from the country.

Trump quickly responded by threatening Iraq with sanctions and sending them a bill for billions of dollars for expensive US bases being built in the country.

Trump has repeatedly maintained that as part of his promise to disentangle the United States from “endless wars,” he plans to withdraw all American troops from Iraq as soon as possible.

In early September, the top US commander in the Middle East, General Kenneth McKenzie, announced that the US would reduce its troop presence in Iraq to 3,000 by the end of the month. The remaining forces will continue to assist the Iraqi security forces to “root out the last vestiges” of the armed group ISIL (ISIS), he said.

Bilateral links

During his meeting with Hussein on Saturday, Iran Rouhani also underlined the development of political, economic and cultural ties with neighboring Iraq.

Hussein reportedly praised the development of bilateral ties, saying his main goal in visiting Tehran was to advance in border, transport and trade relations.

He said a special committee, approved by the Iraqi prime minister, has been formed and will visit Iran within the next two weeks to negotiate and finalize bilateral agreements.

The main topic of discussion in the meetings with all officials was the dredging of portions of Shatt al-Arab, a river some 200 km long, called Arvand Rud in Iran.

The southern end of the river forms the border between Iran and Iraq and the mouth of the river flows into the Persian Gulf. The two countries aim to expand their trade relations via the river.

Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif told his counterpart on Saturday that Iraq’s sovereignty is very important to Iran and denounced any attack on Iranian diplomats or diplomatic motives in Iraq.

During the November unrest in Iraq, the Iranian consulate in Karbala was surrounded by hundreds of demonstrators, some of whom started fires near the walls and threw burning objects into the consulate’s grounds.

“Considered practical measures to further strengthen bilateral cooperation,” Zarif tweeted after meeting Hussein. “We discussed the American terrorist murder of our hero – General Soleimani – and the attacks on Iranian diplomatic premises. He underlined the imperative to protect diplomatic posts. “

“Huge Betrayal” Normalization Agreement of Palestinians

Parliament Speaker Ghalibaf and Iraqi Foreign Minister have also reportedly discussed regional security, Iraq’s sovereignty and role in the region, and improving economic relations.

In addition to using the commercial potential of the river bordering the two countries, the two officials also discussed connecting Basra in Iraq to Khorramshahr in Iran via rail.

The speaker also referred to the recent United States negotiated normalization agreements signed by Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates with Israel, saying: “There is no doubt that the Islamic world should not remain silent on this matter because the question of Palestine is a priority for Muslim countries.

On Sunday, Hussein met Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Iranian Supreme Council for National Security.

Shamkhani also criticized the normalization agreements that Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates signed with Israel, saying they amounted to “a huge betrayal and a clear violation of the rights of the Palestinian peoples”.

He also praised the “strategic ties” with Iraq and condemned the murder of Soleimani as an example of “state terrorism”.

“The follow-up to this cowardly assassination through international organizations is the minimum initiative expected of the Iraqi government,” Shamkhani said.

Hussein reportedly spoke of his country’s desire to further develop its relations with Iran.

“Saddam Hussein could not create a division between our two nations with an eight year war, and it is a good reason to believe that no foreign actor can have a negative impact on the good relations between the two countries “, He declared on the Tasnim news site. .

Last week marked the 40th anniversary of the Iran-Iraq war when both countries remembered the legacy of the deadly conflict.



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