Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (R) welomces Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to Tehran on 12 September, 2021. (Photo credit: AFP/Iranian Presidency)
On 12 September, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi travelled to Iran for an official meeting with President Ebrahim Raisi to discuss bilateral economic relations as well as regional and international issues.
This trip marked the first visit of a foreign leader to Iran since President Raisi took office last month.
“I hope, despite the aims of the enemies of the two countries, we will witness expansion of good relations between Iran and Iraq,” Raisi said during a joint news conference following his meeting with al-Kadhimi.
Sunday’s visit comes at a time when Iraq is trying to mediate between Gulf States and Tehran. Since April, Baghdad has been trying to facilitate talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia hoping to ease tensions between the regional rivals.
After their meeting, the two leaders announced that Baghdad had agreed to waive visas for Iranian pilgrims to Shia holy sites in Iraq on the occasion of Arbaeen, marking the end of the 40-day mourning period for Imam Hussein, Prophet Muhammad’s grandson.
Last year, Iraq banned foreign pilgrims traveling to the country for Arbaeen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Raisi, “decisions were also made about the two countries’ financial issues that should be adopted,” without elaborating further.
Ahead of their meeting, it was reported the two leaders would discuss the issue of Iraqi debt to Iran, as the Islamic Republic supplies its neighbor with one third of its gas and electricity consumption.
But earlier this summer, Iran suspended fuel exports to Iraq for a few days due to $6 billion in debt that Baghdad had accumulated.
The Iranian president also announced that the two nations wish to start a railway project linking the border town of Shalamcheh in Khuzestan province to the neighboring Iraqi Basra province.