Al Sudani says Iran and Iraq to strengthen ties in Tehran visit

Further talks on normalising relations between Tehran and Riyadh also on Iraqi PM's agenda

Mohammed Shia Al Sudani, Iraq's Prime Minister, said his government had been asked to continue to mediate talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia. AP
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Iraq and Iran on Tuesday hailed their "deeply rooted" and "historic" bilateral relations, pledging to boost economic, political and security co-operation.

The announcement was made as Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani began an official visit to Iran, a staunch regional supporter of his government and several influential Shiite militias, which form a branch of the official security forces known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces.

Mr Al Sudani's delegation included Iraqi Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein, Oil Minister Hayan Abdel-Ghani, National Security Adviser Qassim Al Araji and the head of the state-run Trade Bank of Iraq.

"Our relations with Iraq are not normal ones but deeply rooted that bring the two countries and their governments side by side," Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi told a joint press conference.

"Iraq has an important statute for establishing peace, security and stability in the region," Mr Raisi said, adding that his government is willing to co-operate with Baghdad in facing "any element that threatens security and stability in the two countries".

The visit comes as Iran intensifies its cross-border attacks against armed Kurdish opposition groups in Iraqi Kurdistan. It accuses them of fanning unrest amid demonstrations across Iran.

Last week, Baghdad decided to deploy Border Guard units to its borders with Turkey and Iran in a bid to stop continuous attacks from its neighbours against these groups.

The continuing demonstrations in Iran were sparked by the death in custody on September 16 of Iranian Kurd Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been arrested by Tehran's morality police.

Iranian and Turkish-Kurdish rebel groups have for decades sought refuge in northern Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region.

For his part, Mr Al Sudani underlined that security with Iran "is integrated" and that his government would "not allow any group or parties to use the Iraqi lands to destabilise the security of Iran".

"We will discuss the security issues and there will be a formula for the field co-operation to avoid any escalation."

Mr Al Sudani’s office did not release the full agenda before the visit, but a politician had earlier told The National the discussions would focus on the Iranian shelling of Kurdish dissident groups in northern Iraq and resuming Tehran-Riyadh talks in Baghdad.

Since last year, Baghdad has hosted five rounds of talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran on the normalisation of their relations. The last round was in April.

Riyadh severed ties with Tehran in 2016 after Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in the Iranian capital following the execution of a Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia.

Mr Al Sudani has said his government would continue to push for negotiations.

Iraq's new government was asked to continue to mediate talks between the two countries, he said this month.

The visit to Iraq is his third since taking office, after Jordan and Kuwait.

Mr Al Sudani’s government, approved late last month after a year-long political stalemate following the national elections in October last year, has the support of Tehran.

He was the nominee of the Iran-aligned Co-ordination Framework, the largest political group in the Iraqi Parliament with 138 out of 329 seats.

The group comprises powerful Iran-backed Shiite militias and political parties.

Updated: November 29, 2022, 6:14 PM
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