0436 GMT April 22, 2021
Iranian Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian discussed bilateral ties, expansion of financial and economic cooperation and payment of gas and electricity arrears by Baghdad in separate meetings with top Iraqi officials, including Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, on Tuesday.
Ardakanian arrived in Iraq on Tuesday morning at the head of a delegation and was welcomed by his Iraqi counterpart, Majid Mahdi Hantoush, IRNA reported.
In the meeting between Ardakanian and Iraqi premier, the two sides exchanged views on expansion of bilateral relations and cooperation.
In his meeting with Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq Mustafa Ghalib Makhif, the Iranian minister talked about bilateral ties and cooperation on the payment of electricity and gas debts by Baghdad to Tehran.
The two sides also negotiated bilateral financial issues and stressed the importance of increasing interactions between the two neighbors in line with their mutual interests.
In Ardakanian’s meeting with Iraq’s electricity minister, the two sides discussed plans to regulate electricity supply to Iraq.
Ardakanian also met with Iraqi Minister of Trade Alaa Ahmed al-Jubouri and held talks about forging bilateral ties and enhancement of trade and economic cooperation between the two countries.
The two sides also discussed increasing interactions and made the arrangements for holding the next meeting of Iran-Iraq Joint Economic Committee.
In a statement on Monday, the National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) said it decided to reduce supplies to the neighboring Iraq after debts owed by the Arab country accumulated to over $6 billion, Press TV reported.
The NIGC said it had decreased natural gas supplies to Iraq after issuing repeated warnings to the Iraqi ministry of electricity about unpaid bills.
“The Iraqi Ministry of Electricity owes equivalent of more than $5 billion to the NIGC of which a sum of $3 billion has remained frozen in the Trade Bank of Iraq and over $2 billion in matured debts have yet to be paid by the ministry,” said the statement.
It said that the Iraqi side also owes more than $1 billion to Iran over fines accrued on its debts.
“The export of gas to Iraq by the NIGC is a commercial and economic issue the Iranian side has gained almost nothing while being owed over $6 billion,” said the NIGC.
The statement came a day after the Iraqi Electricity Ministry said that large cities in the Arab country may face serious power shortages because Iran had slashed gas supplies to its power plants.
A ministry spokesman said on Sunday that Iran’s gas supplies to Iraq had been reduced to five million cubic meters (mcm) from 50 mcm per day, adding that Tehran was planning to further reduce the supply to 3 mcm per day because of unpaid bills.
The NIGC said that Iran needs the money gained from gas exports to pay for food and medicine purchases at a time the country is under a series of illegal American sanctions which restricts its access to hard currency.