Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri Wednesday pushed for the restoration of an oil pipeline between Iraq and Lebanon, following a meeting with Iraqi President Barham Salih on the last of a four-day visit to the country.
“We discussed Lebanese investment in Iraq and especially the subject of the oil installations between Kirkuk and Tripoli, a topic we must return to,” Berri told reporters, according to the state-run National News Agency.
Berri called on Iraq to send a minister to Lebanon to look into reopening the pipeline between the two cities, which has been stalled for more than 30 years, after the Iran-Iraq War put a stop to crude oil pumping.
In January, Lebanon’s then-caretaker-Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil signed a contract allowing Russian oil company Rosneft to rehabilitate, expand and operate oil storage facilities in Tripoli.
The company has also signed an agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government to explore areas of cooperation in oil and gas.
Berri arrived in Iraq Sunday afternoon on a trip dedicated to strengthening Beirut-Baghdad ties.
“Lebanon has great love for Iraq and the Iraqis and we hope for continued cooperation between our two countries,” Berri said Wednesday.
Later in the day, the speaker met with his Iraqi counterpart Mohammad Halbousi and the heads of all Iraq’s parliamentary blocs.
During the meeting, Berri congratulated Iraq on its victory over extremism, the NNA reported, saying that “Iraq and Lebanon defeated Israel and terrorism.”
Halbousi said the main issue that needed to be addressed by the two countries was Palestine, stressing his “refusal of the recent American decision to recognize the Syrian Golan Heights as part of the Zionist entity.”
Late last month, U.S. President Donald Trump announced a unilateral decision to recognize the area, which Israel seized from Syria during the 1967 Middle East War and annexed in 1981, as Israeli territory.
At the Arab League summit held in Tunis on March 31, Arab leaders said they would push for a U.N. Security Council resolution against the decision, and warned other countries from following suit.
During a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi Sunday, Berri said Lebanon would not allow Israel to encroach on its maritime borders.
Berri said he had told U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during his two-day visit to Beirut last month that Israel had “greed for our water but we will not give up one cup of it,” according to a statement released Monday by his office.
Berri has on several occasions warned against Israeli encroachment on potential oil and gas reserves in waters disputed by Israel and Lebanon.
Lebanon is hoping to begin its first exploratory drilling later this year in one of two maritime areas, one of which lies partially in the disputed territory.
Berri also called Wednesday for visa-free entry between the two countries, after Iraq last October decided to grant Lebanese passport holders visitor and tourist visas for free upon arrival, according to a decision signed by the Iraqi interior minister that circled on news sites at the time. Lebanese passport holders previously had to apply for a visa beforehand at the Iraqi Embassy and pay a fee.
Berri said eliminating the need for visas entirely would further improve bilateral economic ties and encourage tourism, adding that he had discussed the proposal with Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammad al-Hakim.
Berri traveled Monday to Najaf to meet Iraq’s top Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and discuss recent Lebanese, Iraqi and Arab affairs.
“I congratulated his eminence on defeating terrorism. ... His eminence is still fighting to unite Iraq, build it and fight corruption,” Berri told reporters after the meeting, according to a statement from his office.
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