Iran’s top diplomat to head for Iraq tomorrow

Tasnim – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif plans to make an official visit to Iraq in a bid to boost bilateral relations between the two neighboring countries.

Heading a high-ranking political and economic delegation, Zarif is slated to leave Tehran for Baghdad on Sunday, Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said.

Managers and heads of dozens of major private and public companies will accompany the Iranian top diplomat, he added.

During the visit, Zarif plans to hold talks with senior Iraqi officials and attend joint meetings of the two countries’ merchants in several cities of Iraq.

The visit would come against the backdrop of Iran’s efforts to boost its foreign trade in the US sanctions era.

Iraq’s foreign minister said recently that his country is “not obliged” to abide by sanctions imposed by the US against Iran and would be pursuing options to continue bilateral trade.

On December 20, the US granted Baghdad a 90-day extension to a waiver on abiding by the sanctions that were re-imposed on the Islamic Republic in November.

Trade between the two neighboring countries is thought to amount to around $12bn, while Iran provides around 40 percent of Iraq’s electricity needs.

Although Iraq faces possible censure by the US if it fails to cease its trading with Iran by the end of the waiver period, Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali al-Hakim said his country could continue relations with Iran.

“These sanctions, the siege, or what is called the embargo, these are unilateral, not international. We are not obliged (to follow) them,” he said, speaking to a gathering of journalists on January 3.