Rouhani, Iraqi counterpart meets, confer in Baghdad

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is in Baghdad on a trip aimed at solidifying strategic ties despite US efforts to keep the two neighbors apart and curb Iran’s influence in the region.

He met with his Iraqi counterpart Barham Salih shortly after arrival on Monday for important talks which the Iranian president described as “very good.”

“Strengthening ties between Tehran and Baghdad works to the benefit of both countries and we won’t let this positive path towards progress slow down to a halt,” Rouhani said at a joint news conference.

Salih described the trip as “very important” and said the two sides had agreed on new frameworks for cooperation which would be unveiled later in the day.

“We need to get past trivial details in mutual relations and think about the bigger and broader space for cooperation and ties because this would best serve the interests of both countries,” he added.

The Iranian president also thanked Iraq for hosting millions of Iranians who pour into the neighboring country every year to mark the occasion of Arba’een, which is the 40th day after the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (AS).

President Rouhani’s three-day trip starting on Monday includes meetings with President Salih as well as Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi.

The Iranian president is slated to meet with Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi and a number of prominent lawmakers.

He will also make stops at Shia holy sites and meet top Iraqi Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani who is a major source of influence in the Arab country.

Diplomatic trips between the two countries have been on the rise as of late, signaling a strong resolve to expand the existing ties. Rouhani’s trip comes months after Salih visited Tehran in November.

Rouhani told reporters on Monday morning that the trip was aimed at enhancing security cooperation while also focusing on trade, roads and environment to broaden the close relationship.

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