SHAFAQNA- Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s first official trip to Iraq signals the beginning of a new chapter in Iran-Iraq relations, as President described his visit to Iraq a turning point in Tehran-Baghdad relations, hoping that decisions made during the trip would be beneficial for both nations.
This much-anticipated visit has important economic, security, and geostrategic connotations for both countries. It will likely herald a “new chapter” in cooperative relations between two neighbors sharing long borders and deep cultural, religious, and historic ties.
Speaking at Mehrabad Airport upon arrival in Tehran late on Wednesday, Dr Hassan Rouhani said, “No power and third country can divide the great Iranian and Iraqi nations and governments”.
Iranian President also said, “We stressed issues related to borders and 1975 treaty, dredging Arvand Rud, and also free visas for the tourists and pilgrims to both countries”.
He added, “Tourism is a very important issue with regard to economy, culture and even politics, and issuing free visas to both countries can be effective in developing tourism”.
“We also agreed on different fields such as cooperation in energy, electricity, oil and gas,” he said.
Dr Rouhani also went on to say, “In negotiations with Iraqi officials, we discussed technical and engineering services”.
He added, “Regarding regional security issues, we reached good agreements and the two countries have close views about it”.
The President also referred to the signing of five memoranda of understanding between the two countries and said, “In our meetings with Iraqi officials, both sides stressed that the good bilateral relations should be expanded to trilateral and multilateral relations”, Official website of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported.
The three-day official – and high profile – visit of President Rouhani in Iraq, contrasts with the whirlwind trip, of three hours and in great secrecy, made last December by US president Donald Trump. On this occasion the White House tenant did not meet any Iraqi government officials , asianews told.
A couple of months ago, President Trump visited Iraq by the cover of darkness, and, as he claimed in one of his interviews, the Americans actually had to shut off all the lights so that no one could recognize him, fearing for his safety.
President Rouhani, on the other hand, visited Iraq in the middle of the day, traveled to different places and cities and met many Iraqi officials as well as politicians and even tribe leaders, uwidata reported.
One of Rouhani’s most significant meetings was with Iraq’s highest religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf.
“Iraq State Visit, Days 2-3: Met with religious, academic and tribal leaders in Baghdad, Karbala and Najaf; along with President @HassanRouhani,” Zarif tweeted on Wednesday.
“In Najaf, visited and conferred with four prominent religious authorities, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani,” he added.
This meeting- the first time that a sitting Iranian president has met with the supreme religious authority-sent an important signal to the US, whose presidents have never been received by [Ayatollah] Sistani, that Iraq cannot be coerced to turn against Iran, Ellie Geranmayeh wrote in The European Council on Foreign Relation.
Hussein Dawood an Iran expert with the International Crisis Group of the European Council on Foreign Relations wrote on Wednesday, “Through a series of high-level meetings and agreements with Iran’s president, the Iraqi government signaled that it is not prepared to be part of the US maximum pressure campaign against Iran.”, washingtonpost reported.
Iraq’s President Barham Salih has attached great significance to Rouhani’s “very important” visit by characterizing it as mutually beneficial.
He said “Iraq’s interests lie in maintaining very good relations with Iran. I deliberately repeat this sentence several times. We Iraqis have an interest in strengthening these relations with Iran, and we must see them as a main issue among all our regional relationships”, lobelog told.
Iranian president’s state visit to Iraq is very significant as it shows that Iran is forging good political, economic and commercial relations with its western neighbour, Michael Springman , a former US diplomat told IRNA.
Read more from Shafaqna: