Iran and Iraq put visa waiver agreements into effect in a loss to Baghdad
Only 100,000 Iraqis visit Iran annually, compared to up to 9 million Iranians going the other way
The Iranian embassy in Baghdad has announced that it will waive all visa fees for Iraqis looking to visit Iran starting on Monday.
It is a reciprocal measure that will leave Baghdad at a loss, with millions more Iranians visiting Iraq every year than Iraqis going the other way.
The move comes as part of Tehran’s efforts to warm ties with Baghdad after the US administration of President Donald Trump imposed an embargo and sanctions after Washington pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal.
It comes after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s trip to Iraq last month, which saw the two countries restore the 1975 Algiers Agreement as part of a drive to improve relations and to deal with border disputes along the Shatt Al Arab waterway.
The agreement also made pledges to make tourism, pilgrimage and commerce visas free to citizens of both countries starting from April 1. Iraq's Parliament approved its bill exempting Iranians from visa fees on March 27.
The Iranian embassy said about 100,000 Iraqis a year visited, compared to as many as 9 million Iranians visiting Iraq annually.
Iranian pilgrims travel to Iraq every year to visit the southern city of Karbala for the annual pilgrimage of Arbaeen. And more than 80 per cent of foreign visitors to Najaf are from Iran.
But since the reimposition of US sanctions the number of people travelling from Iran fell by 30 per cent in the first nine months of 2018 to 5.9 million, Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicraft and Tourism Organisation said.
The visa move was among many planned during Mr Rouhani’s trip.
The two countries also agreed on the demarcation of the border, ownership of oilfields and to resolve disputes over the Shatt Al Arab.
The agreement, commonly known as the Algiers Accord, was signed in 1975 and aimed to settle Iran and Iraq's border disputes. It served as a road map towards improving relations between the two countries.
Updated: April 2, 2019 03:19 AM