Political Factionalism Irrelevant to Ties With Iraq

Political Factionalism Irrelevant to Ties With IraqPolitical Factionalism Irrelevant to Ties With Iraq

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi said Iran will continue to stand by neighboring Iraq, regardless of which political faction(s) form the next government in Baghdad.

"We will respect whatever the Iraqi people and parliament decide and will cooperate with any side or faction [of their choice] in Iraq because the two countries are neighbors and need to work in tandem," Qasemi told a news briefing on Monday, ISNA reported.

He was responding to media reports that after months of political uncertainty following a May election, rival Iraqi political factions have forged alliances to be eligible of forming a government.

Lawmakers led by influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said they had created a coalition that would give them a majority bloc in parliament.

A rival group led by Hadi al-Ameri, commander of volunteer forces, known as Hashd al-Sha'abi, and former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki responded by saying it had formed its own alliance that would be the largest bloc in parliament after it got some lawmakers to defect from the opposing side.

Ameri and Maliki are considered close allies of Iran.

Qasemi reiterated Iran's declared policy of not meddling in the internal affairs of other countries. "As we have often stressed, what matters most to us is Iraq's independence and territorial integrity. This is of paramount importance to us."

***Trilateral Summit

Presidents of Iran, Turkey and Russia are due to meet later this week in Tehran as part of a diplomatic effort by the trio to end the Syria civil war now in its eighth year.

Qasemi described the upcoming summit as a significant step but said it was irrational to expect a major breakthrough from one meeting on such a complicated, multi-tiered issue.

"The gathering will definitely contribute to the promotion of peace, security and stability in Syria and I hope it will be productive for regional nations, especially the Syrians," the spokesman said.

"But it would be rather unreasonable to expect that the long-running conflict in Syria would be resolved with  one meeting. Diplomacy remains the only solution, though."

The Tehran summit on Friday will mark the third trilateral meeting on war-ravaged Syria.

The three heads of government held their first meeting last November in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was in Syria on Monday for talks with President Bashar al-Assad and his counterpart Walid al-Moualem.

In a related development, Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov said Russian President Vladimir Putin may discuss with the Iranian and Turkish presidents the possible use of banned chemical weapons by rebels and their foreign backers in Syria.

Speculation about the possibility of a chemical attack in Syria has grown in recent weeks after Russian officials warned about a plot to provoke western retaliation against the government in Damascus.

Asked in an interview with the Izvestiya newspaper whether the issue would be on the summit's agenda, Ushakov said, "This issue, all aspects of the Syrian settlement and aggravating points, will be discussed."

Putin is due to hold separate meetings with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Sputnik reported.

***Nuclear Deal

Commenting on the talks between Iran and Europe on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Qasemi said, "We have been in contact with Europeans for months and we are reviewing their proposals."

"We have not yet reached the final stage, but we hope they can meet Iran's expectations and ensure that its national interests are upheld."

The fate of the nuclear deal has been shrouded in uncertainty since US President Donald Trump withdrew in May and vowed to slap fresh sanctions on Iran.

European signatories, namely Britain, France and Germany, have been trying to save the agreement by convincing Iran that it is still worth sticking to the historic deal.

But the three powers have failed to provide concrete assurances that Iran will not lose access to the economic benefits expected from the pact as a result of hostile US policies.

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