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Putin Hosts Maliki in St. Petersburg

July 26, 2017 (EIRNS)—Iraqi Vice President Nouri al Maliki concluded his working visit to Russia with a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg yesterday. The two leaders welcomed closer ties between Moscow and Baghdad, both as they are now and going forward. Putin reported that the two governments have formed a joint intergovernmental commission which is now "hard at work." There are areas where work needs to be done, including in economic cooperation and military technical cooperation, he said. "Russia is proactive in this area, and Iraq benefits from its assistance," he said, according to the Kremlin transcript.

Maliki was effusive in his praise of Russia and its assistance to Iraq, as well as its role in the Middle East more generally. Maliki said that this was his third visit to Russia, and, "With every visit, we take yet another step toward the common goal of further improving our relations."

"I am always eager to emphasize Russia’s immense contribution to preventing our region from falling apart, specifically in Syria and Iraq," Maliki said.

"You have our most sincere gratitude for that. If it were not for Russia’s contribution, the map of the region would have changed for the worse for us."

Maliki also talked about Iraqi efforts to overcome sectarian divisions of power which otherwise, he said, "could result in a new round of terrorist activity."

The Russian provision of weapons to Iraq, particularly the sale of T-90 tanks, was apparently on the agenda of the Putin-Maliki meeting. The Russian news media have been speculating for about a week about the possible sale of T-90s to Iraq.

"This topic was raised, as was the entire current agenda," the chief of Russia’s Federal Service for Military Technical Cooperation, Dmitry Shugayev, told reporters afterwards, reported TASS, but he refused to comment further on it.