Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the Islamic Republic's ties with Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region are rooted in history and will outlast the administration of US President Donald Trump.
Zarif made the remarks in an interview with Iraq's Kurdish-language Rudaw television network in the capital of Kurdistan, Erbil, on Tuesday when asked about Trump’s recent comments that he was unhappy about the Kurds' sale of oil to Iran.
The top Iranian diplomat emphasized that Trump has no place in Iran’s relationship with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
"It has nothing to do with Mr. Trump. Together with the Kurds, we have relations dating back centuries. These governments come and go,” Zarif said.
During a cabinet meeting at the White House in front of reporters on January 2, Trump said he was not happy that the Kurds were selling oil to Iran and claimed that he wanted to protect them either way.
“I didn’t like the fact that they’re selling the small (amount of) oil that they have to Iran, and we asked them not to sell it to Iran... We’re not thrilled about that. OK? I’m not happy about it at all,” the US president said.
In November, the Trump administration announced the re-imposition of the “toughest” sanctions ever against Iran's banking and energy sectors with the aim of cutting off the country's oil sales and crucial exports.
A first round of American sanctions took effect in August, targeting Iran's access to the US dollar, metals trading, coal, industrial software, and auto sector.
The Kurdistan Regional Government has said it would abide by decisions made by Baghdad regarding US sanctions on Iran.
Last month, the United States granted Iraq a 90-day extension to an exemption from sanctions re-imposed on neighboring Iran to keep importing electricity and natural gas and meet its energy needs.
The temporary relief from the sanctions provides additional time for Iraq to determine ways to pay Iran for the imports of natural gas and energy supplies in denominations other than dollar without violating US sanctions.
Addressing a gathering of business people from both Iran and the Kurdistan region in Erbil on Tuesday, Zarif praised the brotherly and historical relations between the two sides and called for further promotion of cooperation.
The Iranian foreign minister said the unilateral US sanctions would fail to affect and hamper Iran’s relations with Iraq’s Kurdistan region.
Heading a high-ranking political and economic delegation, Zarif arrived in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on a four-day visit on Sunday.
The Iranian foreign minister held talks with Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, President Barham Salih, Speaker of the Council of Representatives of Iraq Mohamed al-Halbousi, Head of the National Wisdom Movement of Iraq Ammar Hakim, Iraqi lawmaker Hadi al-Amiri, and the heads as well as members of Iraqi religious, political, cultural, ethical, and social bodies.
Zarif also met with KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and business leaders and discussed ways to boost trade ties.
Addressing a gathering of representatives from hundreds of Iranian and Iraqi companies in the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad on Monday, Zarif said if regional countries want a strong region, they must substitute dialog for war as well as cooperation for arms race.
“In a secure and powerful region, dialog takes the place of war, and cooperation replaces arms race while brotherly relations replace trust in foreigners,” Iran's top diplomat said.