Rouhani seeks to boost ties with Iraq
TEHRAN, March 11, (Agencies): Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Monday called to increase the volume of trade between Tehran and Baghdad to $20 billion a year, describing relations between the two countries as “fraternal and distinct” “The volume of economic exchange between the two countries is now about $12 billion and can easily be raised to $20 billion in the coming years,” Rouhani told reporters before leaving Tehran heading to Baghdad. He added that the areas of cooperation between the two countries “are very wide”, including the field of transportation, tourism, trade and investment as well as political, regional and international issues. Rouhani said that the Islamic Republic stands in solidarity with Iraq as he began his first official visit to Baghdad since taking office.
In a press conference alongside his Iraqi counterpart Barham Salih, he hailed Iraq as an Islamic and Arab powerhouse, saying stability there invariably means security in the region. He said trade ties were in focus amid his talks with the Iraqi president, in addition to other matters such as transport, agriculture, industry and health. The Iraqi president highlighted the need for more cooperation to address common challenges such as terrorism, saying Baghdad could be a point of convergence for countries in the region. Rouhani arrived in Iraq earlier on Monday to start a three-day official visit. Since Rouhani’s election in 2013, Iraq has relied on Iranian paramilitary support to fight IS, following the militant group’s capture of the Iraqi city of Mosul and other territory in both Iraq and Syria. Now with the militants facing a final territorial defeat in the Syrian village of Baghouz, Iran is looking for Iraq’s continued support as it faces a maximalist pressure campaign by President Donald Trump after his decision to withdraw America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
Rouhani, who is accompanied on the three-day visit by a high-ranking political and economic delegation, was received by an honor guard on landing in Baghdad, where he was welcomed by Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali Al-Hakim. Rouhani then visited the shrine of Imam Kadhim, the seventh of 12 clerics revered by Shiites worldwide. Rouhani, a Shiite cleric himself, paused to reach out and touch the gate surrounding the imam’s tomb. He then met President Barham Salih and spoke to journalists, telling them that a “stable Iraq will lead to stability in the entire region.” “We want to be united countries, not against others, but attracting others to our unity,” Rouhani said. For his part, Salih said Baghdad’s central location made it crucial to resolving regional issues. He thanked Iran for its support during Iraq’s fight against IS. “The victory that was achieved against IS group in Iraq was an important and huge victory, but incomplete as the eradication of that sick, deviated line of thought and extremism require more sustainable regional efforts and cooperation,” Salih said.