Iraqi President Barham Salih has pledged to improve bilateral ties with Iran, amid concerns in Tehran over the economic impact of renewed U.S. sanctions.
Salih made the remark on November 17 in Tehran after talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who said annual bilateral trade could rise to $20 billion from the $7 billion in 2017.
Iran has had major influence over Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Tehran is hoping to maintain exports to its neighbor despite the renewed sanctions.
Rouhani said he and Salih had discussed increasing trade in electricity and oil products and the establishment of free-trade zones along the border.
He said they also discussed joint oil projects and improving transport links between the two countries.
Salih suggested the formation of a “new regional system” including Iraq and Iran, one based on “political integrity, national interests, and cooperation between nations and governments.” He did not elaborate.
Iraq is Iran’s second-largest market after China, buying everything from food and machinery to electricity and natural gas.
President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers in May.
Since then, Trump announced what he billed as the “toughest ever” sanctions against Iran, and the country has seen its oil exports plunge and its currency lose more than half its value.
Cover photo: Iraqi President Barham Salih