Iraq and Iran signed several preliminary trade deals Monday, Iraqi officials said, as Iranian President Hassan Rouhani began his first visit seeking to bolster Tehran’s influence and expand commercial ties to help offset renewed U.S. sanctions.
The deals, among them a plan to build a railway linking the neighbors, emerged soon after the start of Rouhani’s visit.
Rouhani and Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi signed several memorandums of understanding, Abdel-Mahdi’s office said in a statement. They included several agreements on oil, trade, health and a railway linking the southern Iraqi oil city of Basra and the Iranian border town of Shalamcheh.
They had also agreed on measures to make it easier for businessmen and investors to obtain visas, Abdel-Mahdi’s office said. The Iranian state news agency IRNA said it was agreed that travel visas would now be free of charge.
Prior to his departure, Rouhani said Iran was determined to strengthen ties with its Shiite-led Arab neighbor, Iranian state television reported.
Rouhani, who is accompanied on the three-day visit by a high-ranking political and economic delegation, was received by an honor guard upon landing in Baghdad, where he was welcomed by Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali al-Hakim.
Rouhani then visited the shrine of Imam Kadhim, the seventh of 12 clerics revered by Shiites worldwide. Rouhani paused to reach out and touch the gate surrounding the imam’s tomb.
He later met President Barham Salih and spoke to journalists, telling them that a “stable Iraq will lead to stability in the entire region.”
The Daily Star