ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – In a press conference in Baghdad, Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh on Thursday reiterated that Tehran would not comply with “illegal” US sanctions and continue to seek improved ties with Iraq.
Zanganeh arrived in Baghdad earlier in the day and met with his Iraqi counterpart, Thamir Ghadhban, to discuss bilateral ties in the oil and energy sector.
“It is our view that we do not have to comply with these illegal sanctions against Iran,” the minister argued during a press conference following his meeting with Ghadhban.
He added that they discussed ways to “cooperate with Iraq” on a number of issues, notably oil exports.
Zanganeh is set to meet with President Barham Salih, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, and Electricity Minister Luay al-Khateeb.
The official visit comes a day after a surprise trip to Baghdad by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who met with top Iraqi officials and warned of Iran’s threat to the stability of Middle East. He also made a stop in Erbil where he met with senior Kurdish officials.
Pompeo’s visit was part of a tour around the Middle East to rally support for Washington’s efforts to erode Iranian influence over Middle Eastern governments where Tehran has gained significant sway in recent years, namely, Iraqi, Syria, and Lebanon.
In November, the US imposed a second round of sanctions on Iran, targeting the country’s energy and financial sectors after withdrawing from the landmark nuclear deal earlier in May.
The sanctions have limited Iran’s trade with other countries. Iraq was among the states to which Washington offered a waiver, allowing for the temporary purchase of Iranian gas on which the country is heavily dependent to fuel its power plants.
As the 45-day permission expired in late-December, the US extended the waiver period by an additional three months after Baghdad asserted to have run into difficulties finding a different supplier for the fuel. Washington, however, continues to push Iraq to become independent from Iran for its energy production.
After Zanganeh, foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is set to pay a visit to Iraq and the Kurdistan Region in the coming days.
Zanganeh’s visit, according to a statement from oil minister Ghadhban’s office, “was set within the framework of strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries in the fields of oil and energy.”
Editing by Nadia Riva