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Iranian FM praises Iraq’s role as regional broker amid Iran-Saudi Arabia talks

BAGHDAD — Iran’s foreign minister praises Baghdad’s efforts aimed at bolstering regional stability, saying he hopes they will lead to “more negotiations and understandings” in the region.

Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks to reporters during a visit to the Iraqi capital, which earlier this month hosted the first round of direct talks between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran. The talks signaled a possible de-escalation following years of animosity that often spilled into neighboring countries and at least one still-raging war.

Zarif also extends Iran’s condolences after a massive fire at a Baghdad hospital for coronavirus patients over the weekend killed 82 people. Officials said the blaze, which also injured 110 people, was set off by an exploding oxygen cylinder.

Riyadh has been trying to end its years-long war in Yemen against Iran-backed Houthi rebels who have increasingly launched missiles and bomb-laden drones at the kingdom to targeting crucial sites and oil infrastructure. Ending that war could be a bargaining chip for the Iranians as they seek sanctions relief from nuclear talks in Vienna.

“We welcome Iraq’s vital role in the region and we hope that day after day that strengthens Iraq’s role for the stability of the region,” Zarif says during a joint news conference with his Iraqi counterpart, Fouad Hussein.

“We thank the Iraqi government for exerting its efforts,” Zarif says, without confirming the Saudi-Iran talks were indeed held in Iraq. “We hope that these efforts will lead to more negotiations and understandings in the region.”

All foreign powers will eventually leave, Zarif adds, but “we will stay here and we should base our relations on good neighborhood, no interference and mutual respect.”

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