Abadi Visits Tehran On Second Leg Of Gulf Tour

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Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was received in Tehran by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran yesterday.

The visit is part of the most important diplomatic tour of Iraq’s neighbour in years, as Abadi attempts to balance relationships with Shia-led Iran and Sunni-led Saudi Arabia. Abadi met with King Salman of Saudi Arabia on Monday, in an effort to foster closer ties with Iraq’s southern neighbour and enhance unity between the Shia majority and Sunni minority in his own country.

Ayatollah Khamenei however accused Saudi Arabia of colluding with the US to create ISIL, warning that neither country can be trusted. “We should remain vigilant of the Americans and not trust them. The Americans and their followers are against Iraq’s independence, unity, and identity.”

The Ayatollah praised the “young devoted forces” of Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces, PMF) militias, sentiments echoed by Rouhani. “The liberation of Mosul is the symbol of the end of terrorism and a victory for Iran, Iraq, Syria, and all the countries of the region that are fighting against terrorism,” the President said, pointedly omitting the training and support US forces and coalition partners are providing to the operations.

Much of the talks centred around greater collaboration tackling terrorism, and improving economic ties, with Rouhani saying there are no barriers to the two countries expanding all-out ties. Rouhani also expressed dissatisfaction with the Kurdish independence referendum due to take place in September. Saudi Arabia also made clear its preference for a unified Iraq.

The official Saudi Press Agency released a joint Saudi-Iraqi statement yesterday praising a “quantum leap” in bilateral relations, following a meeting between Abadi and then Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has since ascended to Crown Prince.

“The countries agreed to establish a coordination council to upgrade relations to the hoped for strategic level and open new horizons for cooperation in different fields,” the Saudi Press Agency reported. It went on to emphasise the importance of maintaining momentum in the improving relationship by holding regular meetings between officials of the two countries.

Abadi flies into Kuwait today, for the final meetings of the tour.

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