Hassan Rouhani to make first official trip to Iraq, Iran says

Mohammad Javad Zarif is on a five-day trip to hold talks with top Iraqi and Kurdish officials

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali al-Hakim (R) receives Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) in Baghdad during an official visit on January 13, 2019.  / AFP / SABAH ARAR
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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday that President Hassan Rouhani is scheduled to visit Iraq next month, marking the first public trip by Tehran’s top official.

Mr Zarif, who is currently heading an economic delegation, arrived in Baghdad on Sunday evening, on a five-day trip to hold talks with top Iraqi and Kurdish officials.

“President Hassan Rouhani will visit Iraq on March 11,” the foreign minister said.

It follows US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s unannounced visit to Iraq last week in which he stressed that Iraq must stop relying on Iran for gas and electricity imports.

In December, the US State Department granted a 90-day waiver to Iraq to continue paying for electricity imports from Iran, despite reimposing harsh sanctions on Tehran in November.

Washington has been working with Baghdad to end its dependence on Iranian natural gas and to increase its energy independence, according to a department spokesperson.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Al Hakim said he discussed Washington’s restrictions during a two-hour meeting with Mr Zarif on Sunday.

"We discussed the unilateral economic measures taken by the US and are working with our neighbour (Iran) on them," Mr Al Hakim said during a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart.


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Mr Zarif condemned Washington's role in the region.

"These failures have continued for the past 40 years and my proposal to countries (in the region) is to not bet on a losing horse," Mr Zarif said.

“We are trying to find ways to overcome the inconveniences caused by the US,” he said.

Tehran is Baghdad’s second largest source of imported goods.

Besides canned food and cars, Baghdad also buys 1,300 megawatts of electricity and 28 million cubic metres of natural gas daily from Iran to feed power plants.

Mr Zarif also met with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi who said that “Baghdad’s policy is built on seeking the best ties with all of its neighbours”.

“We look forward to improving our bilateral relations with Iran,” Mr Abdul Mahdi said.

During his trip, Iran’s top diplomat will attend several economic conferences across the country including cities such as Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.

Mr Zarif will also visit the holy city of Karbala and Najaf.

Meanwhile, King Abdullah of Jordan arrived in Baghdad on Monday morning for talks with top officials, according to Sky News Arabia.