Prime Minister, Dr. Hassan Diab, received today an Iraqi ministerial delegation headed by the Iraqi Oil Minister, Ihsan Abdul Jabbar Ismail. The delegation included: the Iraqi Agriculture Minister Mohammad Karim Jassem, Former Iraqi MP, Hassan Alawi, M. Saif Talal Omran Al-Tamimi, of the Iraqi Oil Ministry, M. Dergham Mohammad Karim, of the Iraqi Agriculture Ministry, M. Ammar Sabbah Moustafa, of the Iraqi PM Office, M. Amin Al-Nasrawi, the Chargé d’affaires of the Iraqi Embassy in Lebanon, and Dr. Ahmad Jamal, Political Advisor at the Iraqi Embassy, in the presence of Ministers of Industry Imad Hoballah, Agriculture Abbas Mortada, and Energy and Water Raymond Ghajar, in addition to General Director of the General Directorate of General Security Major-General Abbas Ibrahim, PM Advisor, Khodor Taleb, and the Head of PM’s Office, Judge Khaled Akkari.
PM Diab welcomed the delegation and praised the historical relations between Lebanese and Iraqi. He expressed his keenness on boosting bilateral cooperation on all levels, hoping that this visit would be a good start for the future of both countries.
The delegation then stressed on the importance of reclaiming the position of the important relationship between both countries. Afterwards, talks touched on the promotion of bilateral relations at all levels, especially trade and agriculture exchange, as well as cooperation in the fields of energy and tourism.
Iraqi Oil Minister:
Then, Iraqi Oil Minister, Ihsan Abdul Jabbar Ismail, speaking on behalf of the delegation, said:
“Our official visit to the brotherly Lebanon comes in the framework of previous discussionsheld between both governments. Lebanon is an important country for Iraq. Many Iraqis go to Lebanon to study and seek medical services, which strengthens the relationship in the interestof all parties. Today we discussed several axes, the most important of which is how to benefit from Lebanon’s experience in the fight against coronavirus epidemic, and what are the possibilities of joint cooperation between the two countries, especially that Iraq currently faces the highest infection rate; moreover, a general culture prevails among Iraqis, which consists in benefitting from Lebanese health institutions. We have also discussed a new agreement and axes to activate it, which is improving Lebanese health services provided for Iraqis entering Lebanese hospitals.
The third axis touches upon ways to reclaim the Lebanese companies that were previously working in the field of agriculture, agricultural restoration and agricultural industries back to Iraq, especially since Iraq is a promising market, and it has witnessed, over the past two years, a great development in the volume of agricultural production and the creation of great opportunities for food industries. Everyone knows that Iraqi customers respect Lebanese food industries operating in Iraq and are contented with them. Iraq is a big country and needs some kind of partnership in this direction.
The meeting also discussed the exchange of expertise in the fields of education, educational and study opportunities in Lebanese universities, especially the American University, and the possibility of expanding these opportunities. The fourth issue raised touches on the Iraqi market which is a promising market and offers many job opportunities whereLebanese companies have had little participation.
We have also discussed the reasons that have previously led to the weak presence of these Lebanese companies in the Iraqi labour market and the possibility of building partnerships between the private sector in each of the two countries, so as to provide services to the energy market, in light of the successful experiences of Lebanese companies during the seventies and eighties in the energy market in Iraq, and the possibility of restoring this opportunity at a wider scale.
We also deliberated on exporting some surplus petroleum products, especially black oil, to the energy market in Lebanon, the export mechanism, and how to organize long-term relations. Iraq is one of the black oil and gasoilexporting countries, and the Lebanese market is one of the markets that import this product through some intermediaries. We discussed the possibility of concluding an agreement between the Lebanese and Iraqi governments to export this product in order to achieve a higher surplus for both governments, enabling the Lebanese government to obtain good prices without intermediaries’ intervention, and enable the Iraqi government to secure a permanent market for the consumption of its products. These are the most important topics that have been discussed and which depend on both countries securing the elements for partnership.
Minister Mortada also said: “We welcome the Iraqi ministers. Today we discussed, in the presence of Prime Minister Diab and relevant Lebanese ministers, ways of cooperation, and we talked about the health, cultural, agricultural, industrial and oil sectors. We stressed that we have longstanding relations with the Iraqi state, with old historical and economic relations; we are re-strengthening and re-exploring these relations today so as to facilitate collaborationbetween both countries in all processes; at the very least, we should strengthen our relations with an Arab country. We emphasizecooperation and further strengthening of ourrelationship with Iraq, especially in economic terms and in terms of food security. We welcome the Iraqi delegation in Lebanon.”
Then Minister Ghajar said: “We met the Iraqi ministerial delegation and discussed with the Minister of Energy several issues, most importantly the import of oil derivatives for the benefit of EdL. We also talked about other issues, notably the import of petroleum products and fuels to the Lebanese market. We still import heavy fuel and diesel for EdL from Sonatrach and Kuwait. Contracts will expire at the end of the year and we are preparing the rulebooks so that other companies can apply for this offer. At the same time we are initiating talks with countries that have national oil companies to study the possibility of granting the Lebanese State the best and conditions, especially in the way of payment.
The Iraqi market can take agricultural and industrial materials instead of money, and in exchange, our import will follow the same method that we adopted with Sonatrach, that isby ships from the Iraqi port to the Lebanese port.
We put the general framework and there is an intention to cooperate with Iraq.
About the impact of the crisis in both Iraq and Lebanon on their cooperation, he commented: “They export most of their oil and they will not give us oil for free. Today we held the first meeting and there will be other meetings soon with technical experts to follow up on the discussions we had. As Minister of Energy, I know the quantities of fuel and oil that we need. A cell must be created by the Presidency of the Council of Ministers to keep track of thecontinuous developments. They will determine the price of oil and we will give them agricultural supplies and pay the remaining difference in cash.