Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is to visit Iraq during a trip to the Middle East during the week beginning November 13th, according to reports on November 10th. Ivanov is likely to visit Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in an attempt to promote Russia as a key player in the region.
Ivanov’s visit to Iraq will mark the first by a Russian foreign minister since 1994, and he has said that he may carry a letter from Russian President Vladimir Putin to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The minister said that he hopes to “reactivate the peace process in Iraq, which today is virtually at a standstill.”
Russia has garnered increasing support from other U.N. members in its attempts to ease sanctions imposed on Iraq on the grounds that the sanctions only hurt the Iraqi people. In conjunction with his visit to Baghdad, Ivanov was to have met with Hans Blix, head of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), prior to his Middle East trip.
UNMOVIC was established in December 1999 to reintroduce U.N. disarmament activities in Iraq after Baghdad kicked out inspectors working for the former U.N. Special Commission (UNSCOM) in December 1998.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf said after meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi on November 10th that Tehran and Baghad are working to re-establish ties after the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.
Al-Sahaf said that: “We have agreed to continue the work toward full normalization between Iraq and Iran through five joint committees. There are political contacts, bilateral trade, the work of the diplomatic missions in both countries and attempts to control the common border.”
The countries have witnessed a thaw in relations since the meeting between Iranian President Mohammed Khatami and Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan after the OPEC heads of state summit in Caracas in late September.