Iraqi PM Arrives in Tehran
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maleki arrived in Tehran on Wednesday to discuss with Iranian senior officials about bilateral ties as well as regional and international developments.
Maliki, who was officially received by Iranian Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian and a deputy foreign minister, is scheduled to meet top Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, Parliament's Speaker Ali Larijani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
This is Maliki’s first visit to Iran after Rouhani’s victory in the June 14 presidential election.
The Iraqi premier was to visit Tehran in August shortly after Rouhani’s inauguration, but later postponed his trip.
In September, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif traveled to the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on his first foreign visit in his new post.
The deadly crisis in Syria, which shares a long, porous border with Iraq and is a strategic ally of Iran, as well as bilateral ties are set to dominate talks between the Iraqi premier and Iranian authorities.
Both Iran and Iraq believe that the ground should be prepared for future elections in Syria in such a way that the people of this country would actively participate in the election and choose their president and decide whether President Bashar al-Assad should remain in power or not.
They also argue that foreign interference would only exacerbate the crisis, and that national dialogue in which different political and ethnic groups are represented can be a real remedy for the conflict that has turned into a full-fledged civil war.
The crisis in Syria has affected Iraq in more than one way. There are now more than 200,000 Syrian refugees in the country, mostly in the northern Kurdistan region.
Also, the cross-border ties between extremist groups and the ongoing violence in Syria has aggravated the security situation in Iraq. The latest figures reveal that more than 7,150 civilians and 950 security forces personnel have now been killed since January, the highest annual toll since 2008.
Security of Iraq matters to Iran doubly as every year hundreds of thousands of Iranians go to Iraq for pilgrimage. In early June at least 14 Iranian pilgrims were killed in a terrorist blast in the town of Muqdadiyah, 80km northeast of Baghdad.
The two countries also enjoy good trade ties. According to a recently published report, Iran exported $3.577 billion worth of commodities to Iraq in the last seven months of 2013, making it the biggest market for Iran's non-oil exports.