MOSCOW, September 17 (RIA Novosti) - The Iraqi government intends to strengthen political and economic ties with Russia, expand military-technical cooperation between the countries and boost collaboration within the energy sector, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister told Rossiya Segodnya International Information Agency.
"The goal is not just to maintain, but to increase cooperation between Iraq and Russia. And we have in mind not only military-technical cooperation, but also cooperation in the energy sector – on the construction of power plants in Iraq, in mining, on the reconstruction of our infrastructure. I can assure you that collaboration with Russia will be a high priority to the new Iraqi government," Iraq's newly appointed Deputy Prime Minsiter Hoshyar Zebari said.
Iraq and Russia will soon exchange government delegation visits, he elaborated.
Iraq is currently focusing on the import of weapons from Russia, which are needed to fight terrorism, Zebari said. "We have already carried out several military contracts. The next step in the near future is the implementation of a number of signed contracts."
According to the deputy minister, Iraq intends to continue acquiring equipment from Russian arms manufacturers, and also import a new batch of fighter jets.
"[What we have] planned is the acquisition of the latest military equipment from Russia . . . armaments that we received from Russia this summer and the support your country has provided have been very helpful to the Iraqi government in its battle against the so-called Islamic State. [The help] was very useful and timely," Zebari said.
September 9 marked 70 years of diplomatic relations between Russia and Iraq. The countries' foreign ministers exchanged congratulatory messages and stated that they had a "strong mutual intention to continue close political cooperation," Russia's Foreign Ministry said.
Iraq is currently battling extremists from the Islamic State (IS), formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The radical Sunni group has been fighting the Syrian government since 2012 and expanded its attacks to northern and western regions of Iraq in June, declaring a caliphate on the territories under its control later that month.
The jihadist group, known for its brutal tactics, has forced tens of thousands of non-Muslims to flee their homes. The United Nations has characterized ethnic and religious cleansing carried out by IS as crimes against humanity.