Iranian President on first historic visit to Iraq

Tehran Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is set to embark on a three-day visit to Iraq on Monday, the first one in his two terms in office and already billed in the media as ‘historic’.

During the visit, Rouhani will meet with his Iraqi counterpart, Barham Salih, and the country’s Shiite spiritual leader, Ali Sistani.

The Iranian president is also expected to hold talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and parliament speaker Mohammed Halbousi, Sputnik reported.

The sides will discuss bilateral relations and the political situation in the region.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier said that Tehran saw the visit as “a new start” in relations with Iraq.

According to the minister, the two countries plan to reach “historic” agreements during the visit, with new cooperation expected in the oil sector and industrial production.

The parlous state of Iran’s economy since U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision last May to pull out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers has pushed the country’s leaders to try to expand trade ties with neighbours.

The agreement lifted in 2016 sanctions that had been imposed by the United States, European Union and United Nations in return for Iran’s curbs on its sensitive nuclear programme.

The Trump administration, which said the accord was too generous and failed to rein in Iran’s ballistic missile programme and its involvement in regional conflicts such as Syria and Yemen, reimposed sanctions on Tehran.

Other signatories to the deal have been trying to salvage the pact after the U.S. exit, but U.S. sanctions have largely scared off European companies from doing business with Iran.

The Europeans have promised to help firms do business with Iran as long as it abides by the deal. Iran has itself threatened to pull out of the 2015 deal unless EU powers demonstrably protect its economic benefits.

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