Iran’s Zarif to start visit to Iraq Sunday that includes the Kurdistan Region

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will visit Qatar and Iraq on Sunday, according to the foreign ministry spokesperson, in a trip that is expected to include the Kurdistan Region.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Saeed Khatibzada said that Zarif would hold talks with senior officials in Iraq, according to state media IRNA.

He added that "Zarif's visit comes within the framework of developing bilateral relations and following up on regional discussions," noting that the foreign minister will also visit Qatar.

An informed source told Kurdistan 24 that Zarif’s visit to Iraq will include the Kurdistan Region, where he will meet senior officials in Erbil.

The envoy’s visit comes as Iran and Saudi Arabia have begun to hold talks in Baghad with Iraqi mediation. The first round of talks, tacitly acknowledged last week by an Iranian official, indicated a possible de-escalation between the Islamic Republic and the kingdom after years of hostility that has often spilled over into neighboring countries. A detente with Saudi Arabia would favor Iran in ongoing talks to bring Tehran back into compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal.

Zarif’s trip also comes as Iran is under pressure to end its support for Iraqi militia groups blamed for a slew of attacks on Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, including an unprecedented drone attack on Erbil International Airport and deadly attack on a Turkish military base in the region on April 14, and the April 18 rocketing of an Iraqi air base hosting US contractors that wounded two people.

Last week the UK’s Ambassador to Iraq, Stephen Hickey, stressed a diplomatic solution to the threat to the Kurdistan Region and Iraq from such militias, telling a panel in Erbil that the UK is “talking very frankly to the Iranians about the need for their support to these groups to stop, and instead for Iran to focus its support on building up the Iraqi state.”

Editing by Joanne Stocker-Kelly