Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Monday described ties with Iraq as “special”, as he prepared to travel to Baghdad on his first official visit to the neighbouring country.
Rouhani’s three-day visit comes as Iraq has been under pressure from Washington to limit ties with its neighbour, particularly after the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and hit Tehran with sanctions.
“Iran-Iraq relations are special,” Rouhani said at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport, state television reported.
“Whenever the people of the region had a problem and asked Iran for help, the people and government of Iran rushed to their help with all their power,” he added.
Iran has close but complicated ties with Iraq, with significant influence among its Shiite political groups.
Rouhani’s visit to Iraq will be the first since he became president in 2013.
He is set to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, President Barham Saleh and the country’s chief Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, according to the Iranian government’s website.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif arrived Sunday in Baghdad to prepare for the visit.