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Khurshid returns home after two-day Iraq visit

June 21, 2013 03:47 IST

Union External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Thursday night returned home after a two-day Iraq visit during which he held talks with top Iraqi leadership on issues of bilateral and mutual interests including imports of oil.

Khurshid, the first Indian minister to visit the war-ravaged Iraq in 23 years, met Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki besides having talks with his counterpart Hoshyar Zebari.

The two countries agreed to revive the ties and in the process decided to hold a meeting of Joint Commission in Baghdad before Ramadan, which begins in July second week.

The two sides discussed the entire range of issues and avenues of partnership including energy security.

The Iraqi government gave an assurance that it will continue to meet India's oil requirements in future too as the two sides decided to expand their cooperation in energy security. Iraq has emerged as India's second largest crude oil supplier, replacing sanctions-hit Iran.

Oil Minister Veerappa Moily is likely to visit Iraq on July 8 for Joint Commission Meeting, sources said.

Till recently, Iran was India's second-biggest crude oil supplier after Saudi Arabia, meeting about 12 per cent of the country's needs. But India has reduced its dependence on Iranian oil in the wake of US and European sanctions on the import of oil from the Islamic Republic.

Iraq, which currently exports around 2.6 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil, is looking to boost its energy output, with target of overall production capacity of 9 million bpd by 2017.

Khurshid also handed a letter of invitation from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Iraqi Premier al-Maliki to visit India which he accepted.

Khurshid also met Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Minister Hussein al-Shahristani and discussed cooperation in the oil sector.

Earlier in the day, Khurshid met with Iraqi National Security Advisor Saleh Al-Fayyadh and discussed cooperation in various fields.

Image: Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid speaks during a joint news conference with his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari in Baghdad, Thursday.

Photograph: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Reuters

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