Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 August 2019

Iran says closer ties to Iraq will preserve regional stability

Tehran's seizure of British-flagged tanker prompted Baghdad to mediate

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (C-R) welcomes Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi (C-L) and others at the Saad Abad palace in Tehran, 22 July 2019. EPA
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (C-R) welcomes Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi (C-L) and others at the Saad Abad palace in Tehran, 22 July 2019. EPA

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that closer ties with neighbouring Iraq would ensure regional stability, amid heightened tensions between Tehran and the West.

Last week, Iran seized the British-flagged tanker, Stena Impero, in Omani waters last week, which was met with backlash from Gulf states. Tehran claims the vessel hit a fishing boat but the British government has dismissed the claims saying there is no evidence.

The escalation prompted Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to travel to Tehran on Monday, where he met with Mr Rouhani and other Iranian officials, and discussed the issue of Strait of Hormuz.

“In the absence of lasting stability and security in the region, the development of ties between Tehran and Baghdad will surely enhance the security and stability in the region,” Mr Rouhani said during a meeting.

The Iranian official said he believes regional issues can be resolved through dialogue and negotiation.

Iran is one of Iraq's strongest allies in the region but also has close ties with Britain and the US, leaving Baghdad in a difficult position if the situation deteriorates but in an ideal position to help de-escalate the tensions.

Mr Abdul Mahdi said that Iraq is in a dangerous position and “it must preserve its strategic interests".

“We need to work hard to secure and protect the interests of the two nations by expanding our relations,” Mr Abdul Mahdi said.

Iraq also has an interest in ensuring smooth tanker passage through the region to keep its own oil flowing through its main export terminal in Basra.

“These interests must be able to serve the country in a neutral manner,” said the premier.

The Iraqi official stressed that Baghdad has “good” relations with the US, Europe and the region.

“We have prevented attacks from taking place on our territories by neighbouring states,” he said.

Updated: July 23, 2019 06:59 PM

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