TEHRAN: Tehran and Baghdad Tuesday identified fighting “terrorism”, maintaining mutual security and extending economic cooperation as key priorities during the new Iraqi prime minister’s first official visit to Iran.
Mohammed Shia al-Sudani was received by President Ebrahim Raisi, who expressed hopes of bolstering ties that have lately been hit by tensions over Iran carrying out cross-border strikes against exiled opposition groups.
Sudani came to power last month, after a year-long tussle between political factions over forming a government following an October 2021 general election.
“From our perspective and that of the Iraqi government, security, peace, cooperation and regional stability are very important,” Raisi told a joint press conference.
“As a result, the fight against terrorist groups, organised crime, drugs and other insecurity that threaten the region depends on the common will of our two nations,” he said.
Sudani said that “our government is determined not to allow any group or party to use Iraqi territory to undermine and disrupt Iran’s security.”
Since nationwide protests erupted in Iran more than two months ago, Iranian officials have accused Kurdish opposition groups exiled in northern Iraq of stoking the unrest and the Islamic republic has repeatedly launched deadly cross-border strikes.
Such strikes – targeting Iranian-Kurdish groups in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region – resumed this month, even after Iraq’s federal government summoned Iran’s ambassador in late September to complain about cross-border missile and drone hits that killed at least seven people.
Iraq has announced in the past week that it will redeploy federal guards on the border between Iraqi Kurdistan and Iran, rather than leaving the responsibility to Kurdish peshmerga forces – a move welcomed by Tehran.
Sudani added that the two countries’ national security advisers would hold consultations to “establish a working mechanism for on-the-ground coordination to avoid any escalation”.
Sudani also thanked Iran for its continued deliveries of gas and electricity, which have been in short supply in Iraq, while he also pointed to discussions on a “mechanism” to enable Iraq to pay Iran for these services.
Raisi said banking, finance and wider business topics were also discussed and that talks between the two allies “will help to resolve bilateral problems”.