Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. File photo: AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Haider al-Abadi, the Iraqi prime minister, has cancelled his trip to Iran, according to his press office. Iran’s foreign ministry earlier denied any such visit was planned in the first place.
The visit was cancelled “because of his busy schedule,” the press office told AFP. The prime minister’s trip to Turkey is still going ahead, however.
An Iraqi official told AP on condition of anonymity the visit was cancelled by Iran.
On Sunday evening, Abadi chaired a meeting of the National Security Council. According to a statement from the PM’s office, Abadi hailed Iraq and Iran’s “excellent” relations.
“The council denies wrong interpretations and politicized statements regarding the official position of Iraq [regarding US sanction] which condemns the policy of starvation of people,” the PM’s office posted on its official Facebook page.
“Excellent” relations between Iraq and Iran and the “preservation” of these relations were emphasized in the meeting, it added.
News of the cancelled visit came just hours after Bahram Gasemi, the spokesperson for Iran’s foreign ministry, said he had not received any official news of the trip, the country’s Fars News reported.
The agency cited an unnamed source as saying the visit was not on the agenda. Iran's foreign ministry has not issued an official statement on its website.
On Saturday, AFP quoted an official as saying that Abadi “will head to Turkey on Tuesday and Iran on Wednesday to discuss economic affairs with the two countries.”
Abadi's office had been silent on the visits.
After the first round of US sanctions targeting Iran's commerce sector went into effect on Tuesday, Abadi noted the world deals the US dollar therefore Baghdad does not want its relations with the US harmed.
He called the sanctions an “essential and strategic mistake.”
“Frankly speaking, we will not react to them. Yes we will comply with them basically because it is a greater state than us,” said Abadi during his weekly presser, adding that as premiere he has to protect the interests of his citizens.
that “in principle, we are completely against sanctions. Iraq has paid the largest amount of money for sanctions. I call it oppression … the sanctions were imposed on the former regime but affected our people … sanctions destroy communities.”
The former regime of Saddam Hussein was heavily sanctioned by the United States because of oil trade and the Kuwait invasion. The result was millions of its citizens, including Kurds, starving until France and eventually the United Nations and other countries intervened with a no-fly zone and oil-for-food programme.
Iraq has strong trade and other ties with its fellow Shiite neighbors Tehran.
Since the US pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in May, the rial's value has plummeted against the US dollar. The Iraqi dinar has stayed relatively the same.
Despite Iraq's massive hydrocarbon deposits, the country rebuilding post-ISIS is expected to have $122 billion of external debt at the end of 2018, according to an Iraqi financial bank.
Iranian MP Mah Sadeghi tweeted on Thursday that Baghdad owes the Islamic Republic $1.1 trillion for reparations during the 1980s Iran-Iraq War.
Abadi, whose term as premier was extended at the end of June by parliament, is trying to secure his post despite his list finishing third in the parliamentary election on May 12.
Seen as the US favorite for prime minister, Abadi is trying to balance Sunni Arab regional interests, along with Tehran.
Last updated 11:19 p.m.