Iraq and Iran presidents agree to further develop ties at first meeting

The new ultraconservative Iranian president replaces moderate Hassan Rouhani

Iraq's President Barham Salih said his country supports stability in the region and urged an end to current tensions after he arrived in Iran to attend the inauguration ceremony of Iran's President-elect Ebrahim Raisi.

“Iraq strongly supports the stability of the region, security and to end the tensions,” Mr Salih said, according to a statement from his office, after his first meeting with Mr Raisi.

Iraq has led initiatives to hold meetings between Iran and Saudi Arabia and other rivals in Baghdad, as part of its continued efforts to diffuse tensions.

The two leaders discussed “mutual issues between the two neighbourly countries in a way to boost bilateral relations as well as the developments in the region,” the statement said.

Mr Salih hailed Iran’s role in helping Iraq fight ISIS when the extremist group took over nearly a third of the country in mid-2014.

Mr Raisi, 60, said his country “is looking forward to boosting bilateral relations with Iraq in all sectors” and supporting “the stability and security of Iraq.”

The two countries fought a ruinous eight-year war in the 1980s that left an estimated 1 million people dead.

But relations have improved since the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein and brought Shiites — many of whom sought shelter in Iran — to power.

Since then, Iran’s influence has grown in Iraq through its support of political parties and militias, trained and armed by Tehran to fight US troops and then ISIS.

The former chief of the Iran's judiciary, Mr Raisi won a presidential poll in June in which more than half of the electorate stayed away. Many political heavyweights were barred from standing.

The ultraconservative president-elect replaces the moderate Hassan Rouhani.

His inauguration ceremony is to be held at 10.30am local time at the supreme leader's offices in central Tehran.

Updated: August 5th 2021, 12:18 PM