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Russia, Iraq call for closer economic, military cooperation

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki have held a meeting, during which they underlined the need for the reinforcement of bilateral “economic” and “military-technical” relations.

The meeting took place in the Russian city of St. Petersburg on Tuesday.

Putin said that Russia and Iraq have set up “an intergovernmental commission” that is currently working “at full capacity.”

He added, however, that “a lot has yet to be done in terms of economic cooperation…, specifically military-technical cooperation. Russia is proactive in this area, and Iraq benefits from its assistance.”

Paying his third visit to Russia, Maliki said, “With every visit, we take yet another step toward the common goal of further improving our relations.”

Moscow and Baghdad have contacts in the energy, economic and the military-technical fields and are engaged in the implementation of a number of bilateral cooperation agreements, he noted.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) meets with the Vice President of Iraq Nuri al-Maliki (R) in Saint Petersburg on July 25, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Maliki also emphasized that Russia and Iraq “have very good potential for [further] cooperation, and our strategic choice is based on an understanding of the importance of the role of Russia in the region and Iraq.”

The Iraqi vice president further hailed Russia’s active role in the fight against terrorists operating in the region.

“Russia has made a tremendous contribution, in particular in Syria and Iraq, to prevent the disintegration of the region,” he said, warning that without Moscow, “the map of the region would have changed for the worse for us.”

Russia took an “honorable stance” when it agreed to the speedy delivery of weapons to Iraq after the rise of the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group in the Arab country, Maliki pointed out.

Meanwhile, Dmitry Shugaev, head of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, said that Putin and Maliki had “touched upon” the supply of Russian T-90 battle tanks to Baghdad during Tuesday’s meeting.

According to Russian media reports, the deal could exceed $1 billion.

On Monday, Maliki sat down with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, Valentina Matviyenko.

Valentina Matviyenko (L), speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, welcomes Iraqi Vice President Nouri al-Maliki during their meeting in Moscow, Russia, July 24, 2017. (Photo by AP)

During the meetings, the Iraqi official urged “substantial” Russian military and political presence in the terror-ravaged country, stressing that this would bring “balance” to the entire region.

Daesh unleashed its campaign of death and destruction in Iraq in 2014, seizing the northern city of Mosul and declaring it as its stronghold in the Middle Eastern country.

Iraqi army soldiers and allied volunteer fighters have been leading a major operation to rid the country of Takfiri elements. The Iraqi forces fully liberated Mosul earlier this month.

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