Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif in Iraq amid Riyadh-Tehran talks
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif landed in Iraq’s capital on Monday amid reports that Tehran and its arch rival Riyadh have engaged in talks mediated by Baghdad.
Zarif’s visit comes following reports that Iraq recently played the role of mediator between Iran and its decades-old rival Saudi Arabia by becoming a venue for talks, a diplomatic move first reported by the Financial Times.
Although Saudi officials have not confirmed any meetings took place, Iran’s ambassador to Iraq said last week he “welcomed” such a move without elaborating on the details.
Zarif met Monday with Iraq’s foreign minister, Fuad Hussien, discussing the latest political developments and the current state of affairs between the two neighboring countries, the two said during a press conference.
Neither Zarif or Hussien mentioned the recent discussions with the Gulf kingdom, although the Iraqi minister said Iraq “witnesses” the ongoing dialogue between Iran and the other members of the 2015 nuclear deal, and that the two discussed “important topics” in the region.
Zarif is planning to visit the Kurdistan Region and Najaf during his trip, Hussien said.
Before meeting his Iraqi counterpart, Zarif and his delegation visited the site where the top Iranian commander Qassim Soleimani was killed last year by an US airstrike along with Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis, Iraq’s high-profile Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) commander.
“Iran respects Iraq’s sovereignty,” Zarif said in the conference, denying that the Islamic Republic interferes in its neighbor’s domestic affairs.
The removal of Iranian influence from Iraq was one of the main demands of the October 2019 demonstrations and Tehran is regularly accused of meddling in Iraq and supporting the PMF.
Editing by Joanne Stocker-Kelly