Iranian President Hassan Rouhani began a historic three-day visit to Iraq Monday to strengthen the nations’ relationship amid sanctions and isolation efforts by the United States.
Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the visit will help improve relations between the two nations that have long had an adversarial relationship, including a war between 1980 and 1988.
“We consider this trip a new start in our relations with Iraq,” Zarif told state-run PressTV. “Without Iran and Iraq, the region won’t be safe and stable.”
Rouhani told reporters Monday a stronger relationship with Baghdad is welcome, despite Iraq’s close ties with the United States and its efforts to fight the Islamic State.
“The U.S. is despised in the region; the bombs they dropped on the people of Iraq, Syria and other countries are not forgettable and at the same time, Iran’s brotherhood towards countries of the region will always be remembered,” Rouhani said.
Iraqi President Barham Salih confirmed that Rouhani’s visit aims to improve relations. Iran is Iraq’s largest economic trading partner.
“Let me tell you that Iraq will not become part of the U.S. unilateral sanctions regime against Iran,” Salih said. “There is no doubt that we will be affected by these sanctions, but it is certain that we will not be part of them.”
The United States last year abandoned a multi-national deal with Iran that lifted sanctions in exchange for limits on Tehran’s nuclear program.
In January, the European Union imposed its own sanctions against an Iranian intelligence agency and two individuals for alleged involvement in various assassination plots on Iranian soil.