Iran Ambassador to Iraq Iraj Masjedi (left), Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani meet to discuss trade ties in Erbil on January 15, 2019. Photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif arrived in the Kurdistan Region's capital of Erbil on Tuesday along with tens of business leaders to try to forge closer relations.
"The Kurdistan Region is an important neighbor for us ... We need each other and neither side can develop without the help of the other," said Zarif during a statement after a meeting on trade.
Zarif was received at Erbil International Airport by Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and head of the Department of Foreign Relations Falah Mustafa.
"Trade relations between the Kurdistan Region and Iran are excellent," said Zarif.
The Kurdish premier was cordial in his remarks after the talks.
“In the last four years, we were in a dark, closed tunnel. But now, we are seeing a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel and the Kurdistan Region is recovering," said Barzani
Barzani thanked Iranian firms working in the Kurdistan Region for not abandoning it while engulfed in recent economic woes.
“We hope this conference and the other in Sulaimani bear fruit in the development of relations between Iran and the Kurdistan Region,” said Barzani.
Barzani explained Iran has always been there for Kurdistan's people and extends a helping hand, best exemplified when they opened their doors to the Halabja survivors in 1988.
Erbil is engaging in continued talks with Baghdad to resolve long standing issues, according to Barzani, and for this purpose the KRG planning minister is in the Iraqi capital on Tuesday to settle customs issues.
He stressed that the KRG is supporting Iraqi PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi and his cabinet.
A delegation of KRG officials receives an Iranian trade delegation at Erbil International Airport on January 15, 2019. Video: Rudaw TV
Tehran's ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masjedi, is also a part of the large delegation.
It is expected for Zarif to meet with Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) President Masoud Barzani, Kurdistan Region Security Council (KRSC) head Masrour Barzani and then travel to Sulaimani province.
An economic forum will be held at the latter where a wide-ranging list of issues will be discussed.
Zarif is on the third day of his Iraq trip after spending the first two in the Iraqi capital.
Iran is the Kurdistan Region's second-largest trading partner. Analysts have speculated that it will be difficult for Iraq and the Kurdistan Region to adhere to US sanctions on Iran due to the close ties. Although officials in the Kurdistan Region have said they are seeking advice from Washington in order not be in violation.
Update 11:34 a.m.
CORRECTION: Iran Ambassador to Iraq Iraj Masjedi was incorrectly identified as Petroleum Minister Bijan Zangeneh.