Saturday, 20 April, 2019

Rouhani and Abdul Mahdi back deeper Iran-Iraq ties

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Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has visited Tehran for talks with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, marking a further deepening of ties between the two neighbours.

At a joint news conference on Saturday, Rouhani hailed Iran and Iraq’s shared stance on key regional issues.

“We hold common viewpoints on Al-Quds [Jerusalem] being the permanent capital of Palestine, Golan being an inseparable part of Syria and that the war in Yemen should finish soon and that the solution to the Yemeni crisis should be a political one,” he said.

Rouhani added that the two countries “agreed upon the necessity of peace and stability in the entire region”.

Abdul Mahdi echoed the Iranian president’s comments, adding that economic and security cooperation were also discussed in their meeting.

“We wish to see our well-developed relations, bilateral relations, to be an example to follow and also as a precursor to similar ones with all the regional countries,” he said.

The Iraqi prime minister’s visit to the Iranian capital followed Rouhani’s trip to Baghdadless than a month ago.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent Dorsa Jabbari said the two sides have made “very strong gains” in the past years.

“The Iraqi prime minister said that according to Iraq’s constitution, Iraqi soil will not be allowed to be used by foreign troops or fighters to launch any attacks against Iran,” she said, speaking from Baghdad.

According to Iranian state TV, Rouhani on Saturday called for both countries to expand their gas and electricity dealings and boost bilateral trade to $20bn, despite difficulties caused by sanctions imposed by the United States against Tehran.

Iranian media reports have put the current level of trade at about $12bn.

“The plans to export electricity and gas and hopefully oil continue and we are ready to expand these contacts not only for the two countries but also for other countries in the region,” Rouhani said.

US President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran’s energy exports in November citing its nuclear programme and meddling in the Middle East, but has granted waivers to several buyers to meet consumer energy needs.

Iraq relies heavily on Iranian gas to feed its power stations, importing roughly 1.5 billion standard cubic feet per day via pipelines in the south and east.

Meanwhile, Iran’s top leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged Abdul Mahdi to ensure US troops leave “as soon as possible”.

“You must make sure that the Americans withdraw their troops from Iraq as soon as possible because expelling them has become difficult whenever they have had a long military presence in a country,” Khamenei said, according to Iranian state media.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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