L to R: Iranian Ambassador to Iraq Iraj Masjedi, KRG Deputy PM Qubad Talabani, and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif attend the 'Iran-Iraq (Kurdistan Region) Economic Forum' in Sulaimani on January 15, 2019. Photo: Rudaw
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – US sanctions on Iran appeared to have little bearing on discussions as Sulaimani hosted the ‘Iran-Iraq (Kurdistan Region) Economic Forum’ on Tuesday.
“We fought ISIS side by side… and traded together to develop Iraq, Iran, and the Kurdistan Region. These relations, which have been watered by the blood of martyrs, cannot be harmed by anyone or anything,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said during the forum.
Zarif is on a trade mission to Iraq, visiting Baghdad and Erbil
after recent visits by US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who sought to convince Iraq to end its energy dependence on Iraq.
There are seven border crossings between Iran and the Kurdistan Region, three of them operating at an official level, doing $8 billion in trade, according to KRG Finance Minister Rebaz Hamlan.
The KRG is keen to see that trade grow. Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani said he was happy to see discussions with their neighbour could focus on trade, not just on security issues.
Iran has a lot of influence over Iraq’s security affairs. It backs powerful Shiite militias within the Hashd al-Shaabi.
Zarif stressed the importance of regional security and strong ties between neighbours.
"You cannot live in peace when your neighbors are not,” he said. “A tree of love has to be planted because they bring peace. But a tree of hatred has to be uprooted because they bring bad things.”
Iran also now wants to expand relations.
By attending the forum in Sulaimani, Zarif said he proved Iran wants ties with Iraq and Kurdistan Region that are “based on economic coordination.”
Updated at 11:40 pm