Iran Claims Readiness to Normalize Relations with Iraq
Iran on Monday expressed its readiness to take effective measures to eliminate barriers to normalization of ties with Iraq, above all the issue of prisoners of war.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran has several times stressed that it is ready to take the necessary steps to find a solution to the problems if the Iraqi officials show their political will," foreign ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Assefi said, quoted by the official Iranian news agency (IRNA).
He said "lack of cooperation on part of the Iraqi officials" was the main reason for the halted exchange of POWs between the two neighbors, which fought a bloody war from 1980-1988.
"If the Iraqi government intimates its readiness, the Iranian government is ready to cooperate in this field as it has thus far shown its goodwill," Assefi said.
The two nations have yet to sign a formal peace treaty ending the war, which left hundreds of thousands dead on each side, said IRNA.
The PoW question, and the presence of opposition groups on each other's territory, are among the main obstacles to a normalization of ties between Tehran and Baghdad.
Iran has rejected Iraqi claims that it still holds 29,000 PoWs, while Baghdad denies holding any of the 3,206 Iranian POWs which Tehran claims are still missing. Iraq says it holds just 400 Iranians who have refused to return home.
Relations between the two countries deteriorated in April when Iranian security forces destroyed all bases of the outlawed group Mujahedeen Khalq in Iraq.
Tehran's April 18 offensive on Khalq bases and nearby border towns killed at least seven people, six of them Iraqis, and a Mujahedeen militiaman – Albawaba.com
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