Iran, Iraq to mark formal borders next week: Mottaki

BAGHDAD: Iraq and Iran will hold talks from next week to formally mark their borders, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Thursday, weeks after a dispute between the two countries over an oil well.

Mottaki made the remarks at a joint media conference with his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari on a one-day visit to Baghdad. He was due later to meet with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and other senior leaders.

“There will be a meeting within a week between the two countries about the borders,” Mottaki told a news conference in the foreign ministry in central Baghdad.

He added that in the following weeks, meetings would be held between technical committees from the two countries to determine the land and maritime borders separating the two countries.

Iranian television said earlier that Mottaki, on his first visit to Iraq since September, was leading a large delegation on the visit, which was to focus on bilateral security co-operation and border issues.

Tehran has often been accused by US military leaders, whose forces still have a large presence in Iraq, of funding and training Shiite militant groups and undermining security in the conflict-torn country.

Mottaki’s latest visit comes just weeks after Iranian forces took over an oil well along the two countries’ disputed border, prompting a stand-off that drove up international crude prices.

On December 18, Iraq’s state-owned South Oil Co. said about a dozen Iranian troops and technicians had arrived at the field, taken control of the Well 4 and raised the Iranian flag. They eventually withdrew days later.

Well 4 is in the Fauqa Field, part of a cluster of oilfields which Iraq unsuccessfully put up for auction to oil majors in June. The field has estimated reserves of 1.55 million barrels.

Though Iraqi officials had said last month that Iranian forces remained on Iraqi territory after withdrawing from the field, Mottaki told reporters: “Some orders have been issued to the Iranian forces to return to their original places.”

He said the oil field offered an “opportunity for joint investment.”

“The border forces of the two countries returned to their places and after the meetings of the technical committees … everything will revert back to normal.”

The takeover was one of the most serious incidents between the two neighbours since the US-led invasion of 2003 toppled now-executed dictator Saddam Hussein’s regime, which fought a devastating 1980-1988 war against Iran.

Zebari told lawmakers last month that Iran has been violating Iraq’s borders since 2006. The two countries share a 1,458-kilometre frontier. —AFP

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