Iran’s oil minister appoints special envoy for Iraqi affairs

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Iran’s oil minister has appointed a special envoy for Iraqi affairs, a first for the Islamic republic which is seeking $5 billion in arrears from its neighbor for gas exports.

The ministry’s Shana news agency said Oil Minister Javad Owji had tasked Abbas Beheshti with “endeavoring to speed up settling gas export claims.”

Iraq buys gas and electricity from Iran to supply about a third of its power sector, which has been worn down by years of conflict and poor maintenance.

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Despite sanctions imposed by Washington since 2018, Tehran exports gas to Baghdad under a series of temporary US waivers meant to wean Iraq off Iranian energy.

Under agreements signed in 2013 and 2015, Iraq imports 70 million cubic meters (2.47 billion cubic feet) of Iranian gas per day.

The neighbors also signed a two-year electricity supply contract in June 2020.

But Iran has repeatedly cut off the gas and electricity supplies in order to pressure Iraq into paying outstanding bills.

According to Shana, Beheshti was tasked with “identifying the capacities and potentials of the two countries in the field of trade in oil and petroleum products.”

He was also asked to identify and create “the necessary bases to ramp up the mutual presence of private sectors and investors in the oil industry of the two countries.”

In October 2020, Hamid Hoseini, secretary of the Iranian Union of Petrochemical, Gas and Oil Exporters, said 60 percent of Iran’s petrol exports went to Iraq.

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