EghtesadOnline: Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif spotlighted Iran’s reliability as a business partner during his visit to Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan on Tuesday.
“We assert that we are a very reliable partner for all, especially for the Kurdistan Region of Iraq,” he said at a meeting of business leaders, IRNA reported.
Zarif is on a tour of Iraq to bolster economic and political cooperation between the two countries.
On the third day of his visit, he arrived in Erbil and was received by Nechirvan Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Financial Tribune reported.
He described Iraqi Kurdistan as an important neighbor of Iran, stressing that his trip is aimed at strengthening bilateral relations.
“Today, I briefed Nechirvan Barzani about the concerns of the private sector and asked him to take measures to address the issues,” he said.
In the meeting, he also discussed customs facilities and proposed the establishment of industrial towns on border areas to jointly manufacture goods and export them using the two sides’ comparative advantages.
“Iran’s connections in Eurasia and Iraq’s in Arab states can help improve mutual economic ties,” he said.
“We believe in the good faith of the [Kurdistan] region’s government,” he said, calling on Iraqi Kurds to have trust in Iran’s good faith.
Zarif was scheduled to meet Masoud Barzani, the leader of Kurdistan Democratic Party, and Masrour Barzani, chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council as well as officials of Erbil’s Chamber of Commerce.
Morteza Ebadi, Iran’s consul general in Erbil, said Zarif’s visit at the head of a delegation indicates the special importance of the region for Iran, especially “since $3 billion worth of Iraq’s imports from Iran enter through border crossings in the Kurdistan Region”.
Abdullah Akerei, an official representing Iraqi Kurdistan Region in Iran, told IRNA that his government’s policy is based on expanding relations with neighboring countries, especially Iran.
“We hope to remove obstacles to these relations through such meetings,” he said, describing the current ties as favorable.
“Several crossings and long borders make it necessary for the two governments to be in close contact and Zarif’s visit is crucial along this line.”
Iran’s top diplomat arrived in Baghdad on Monday at the head of an economic and political delegation for a five-day mission to improve ties with the Arab nation.
During his two-day stay in Baghdad, he met Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, President Barham Salih and Parliament Speaker Mohamed al-Halbousi as well as members of two major parliamentary factions headed by Ammar al-Hakim and Hadi al-Ameri and other political figures.
He also attended an economic conference where Iranian and Iraqi businesspeople discussed possible areas of cooperation.
Zarif was set to leave Erbil for Sulaymaniyah, another major city in the Kurdistan Region, later on Tuesday, where another large economic gathering was scheduled.
Based on the trip’s agenda, he is to visit Karbala and Najaf before heading back to Iran on Thursday.
Strengthening ties with Iraq, which is Iran’s top trade partner, is of critical importance for Iran at present, given the United States’ vigorous campaign to cut the country off the global market.
Special efforts need to be focused on the Kurdish region since Iran-Erbil relations were hit after the 2017 independence referendum was opposed by Iran.
Sirous Borna, an expert on Iraqi affairs, had earlier stressed the need to mend strained relations, naming Zarif as the ideal figure to help bring the two sides closer through the “art of diplomacy”.