ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq has postponed a ministerial delegation visit to Saudi Arabia to discuss energy cooperation due to pressure by Iran to cancel the trip, US-based al-Hurra Iraq reported earlier in the week.
A high-profile Iraqi delegation, under Planning Minister Salman Aljumaili and accompanied by Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi, Electricity Minister Qasim al-Fahdawi, and Minister of Transport Kadhim al-Hammami, was scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia on July 18.
The delegation, formed by directives of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, was expected to discuss ways of boosting cooperation with Saudi Arabia regarding energy as Iraq suffers electricity shortages across the country.
Citing anonymous sources, al-Hurra reported on July 25 that the Iraqi delegation’s visit was canceled due to Iranian pressure on Baghdad to reject any initiative from Riyadh to provide Iraq with electricity.
Last week, Najm al-Qasab, a political analyst from Baghdad, confirmed that Iran had pressured the Iraqi government to prevent the visit of two delegations to Saudi Arabia, one headed by the minister of electricity and the other one led by the minister of planning.
The Iraqi government has not yet issued any statement on why the high-profile visit to Saudi Arabia was canceled or postponed.
According to a statement from the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity on July 13, Iran cut electricity supplies to Iraq due to unpaid bills. The Iranian move has exacerbated the country’s electricity crisis creating widespread anger and demonstrations across several provinces in southern Iraq.
As a result, the Ministry has set up an alternative plan to import power supplies.
“The Prime Minister of Iraq ordered [Fahdawi] to visit Riyadh to strike a joint deal after days of public unrest across southern cities in the country over poor services,” al-Arabiya news outlet reported on July 16.
Iraq was previously buying about 1,000 megawatts from Iran via two lines in Diyala, another in Basra, and a fourth in the southern city of Amara in Maysan Province.
According to the former Iraqi Parliament’s Energy Committee, the country has spent 40 billion USD on its energy sector since 2003, yet the government has been unable to provide 24-hour electricity to its people.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany