Khurshid to visit Iraq; oil import likely to be top on agenda

Khurshid to visit Iraq; oil import likely to be top on agenda

Khurshid to visit Iraq; oil import likely to be top on agenda

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will embark on a two-day visit to Iraq on June 19 during which he will hold talks with top Iraqi leadership on issues of mutual interest including import of oil.

Khurshid, the first senior Indian leader to visit the oil-rich Arab country in last 23 years, will meet his Iraqi counterpart Hoshiyar Zebari and discuss bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest.

Khurshid is expected to discuss the issue of import of oil from Iraq, which has emerged as India's second largest crude oil supplier, replacing sanctions hit Iran.

In recent years, India's import of oil from Iraq has seen a significant rise. Iraq has the world's third largest proven oil reserves.

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 EU sanctions on the import of oil from the Islamic Republic.

India imported about 13.3 million tonnes of crude oil from Iran in 2012-13 fiscal, down from 18.1 million tonnes shipped in the previous financial year.

Early this month, the United States exempted India and eight other countries from financial sanctions for six-month for significantly reducing their dependence on Iranian oil.

Khurshid is also expected to call on Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, and Chairman ofCouncil of Representatives and Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq.

India remains committed to support the ongoing post-war reconstruction and development efforts in Iraq, said a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs.

This forthcoming visit is expected to add an impetus to our bilateral relations and elevate our ties to a higher level for the mutual benefit the people of India and Iraq, the statement added.

Former External Affairs Minister I K Gujral, who later became the Prime Minister, had visited Iraq in 1990 in connection with the evacuation of Indians in the wake of Gulf war.