EghtesadOnline: Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif is to set off on a tour of regional countries in the coming days to help enhance cooperation and strengthen business, economic and political ties.
Zarif’s first destination will be India where he is to head a large business delegation made up of private sector representatives.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi said Zarif will then head to Iraq, according to Financial Tribune.
“In the near future, the foreign minister will make visits to neighboring countries in line with Iran’s permanent and unchanging policy on neighbors,” the spokesman said on Friday, ISNA reported.
Qasemi added that Iran’s attitude toward regional countries has always been based on the notions of “peaceful coexistence, better relations and collective effort to ensure peace, sustainable security and closer economic cooperation”.
“There is no other way to come through and build a strong and developed region.”
Highly Important Visit
Qasemi described Zarif’s trip to India as “highly important”, given the nature of cooperation between the two states and the potential for its enhancement.
India, a top buyer of Iranian oil after China, has continued its crude import despite the US sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors, as it has received a temporary waiver by Washington to buy oil.
In addition, to bypass US payment restrictions, the two countries signed a bilateral agreement to settle oil transactions through an Indian government-owned bank, UCO Bank, in the Indian currency.
Iraq, Zarif’s next stop, is also a major trade partner for Iran with an annual turnover of about $12 billion that is projected to rise to $20 billion in the near future.
It imports a wide range of goods from Iran, including food, agricultural products, home appliances, air conditioners and car parts. Iranian goods' imports to Iraq were worth about $6 billion in the year ending March 2018, or about 15% of Iraq’s total imports for 2017.
Iraq is also highly dependent on Iranian gas and electricity. When the second round of US sanctions took effect on Nov. 5, Iraq was given a 45-day waiver for importing gas from Iran, which was later extended for another 90 days.
This is while Iraqi officials have said they need around two years to find an alternative source.
Sanctions were reimposed unilaterally on Tehran by the US after it abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal last May. Iran has been conducting negotiations with partners to maintain its relations and counter the effects of the US hostile measures.
Through the upcoming tour, according to Qasemi, Iran also wishes to show goodwill and convince regional countries of how it has worked toward peace and stability.
“Iran’s record of efforts to restore peace and security, especially to countries such as Iraq, Syria and Yemen, is exemplary,” he said, adding that the world is today acknowledging the position that Iran took years ago toward Syria, for instance.
“This indicates the wisdom and tactfulness of Iran’s foreign policy regarding regional developments, which foresaw the future and advised others, too, against reacting hastily to regional issues,” he said.