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Lavrov in Iraq to discuss US sanctions over Ukraine

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein (R) and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov speak to reporters in Baghdad on February 6, 2023
— Baghdad (AFP)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Iraqi counterpart on Monday discussed unpaid bills owed to Russian oil companies because of US sanctions over the Ukraine conflict.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein told a Baghdad news conference that he would discuss the issue during a visit to Washington on Wednesday.

"The sanctions should not be imposed on Iraq because its cooperation continues with Russian companies," Hussein told reporters.

Since the Ukraine war began nearly a year ago, the United States and the European Union have imposed sanctions on Russian officials, banks and financial institutions, raising fears in third countries about any transactions involving Russia.

Hussein said Russian oil and gas companies operating in Iraq were still awaiting some payments, without specifying how much was due.

Standing alongside Lavrov, he said: "We have discussed how to manage these defaults in light of the sanctions imposed on Russia and the protection of Iraqi banks and its central bank."

He said there would be a meeting "in the coming months" of a joint committee on bilateral relations with Russia to discuss the issue.

Lavrov meanwhile criticised the Western measures, describing them as "illegal".

"Under the current conditions of illegal restrictions imposed by the Americans and their proxies, it is very important to protect legal economic relations from illegal Western pressure," Lavrov said.

"This is what many countries in the region are doing, switching instead of the dollar to payments in the currencies of other reliable countries, in particular for oil deliveries," he added.

Hussein reiterated Baghdad's support for a ceasefire and negotiations to end the war in Ukraine.

"We support a ceasefire between both parties so negotiations to end this truly global crisis can begin," he said.