By Timur Azhari
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani on Sunday embarked on an official visit to Syria, the first visit by an Iraqi prime minister since the outbreak of the Syrian war in 2011, with the aim of securing their common border and strengthen the economy. tyres.
Iraq and Syria, which have close economic, military and political ties to regional heavyweight Iran, maintained relations throughout the Syrian civil war, even as other Arab states withdrew their ambassadors and closed their embassies in Syria.
Baghdad and Damascus teamed up with Shiite armed groups backed by Iran to fight against the Islamic State militant group, which spread from Iraq into Syria and at one point controlled more than a third of both countries.
Farhad Alaaldin, foreign affairs adviser to the prime minister, said Sudani is about to talk about fighting the drug flow, especially the amphetamine Captagon, and preventing the infiltration of Islamic State militants across their shared border of 600 km.
The prime minister would also discuss trade and economic cooperation and options for reopening an oil export pipeline in the Mediterranean, which could help Iraq diversify its export routes, he said.
Sudan’s visit comes as other countries, including Saudi Arabia, are rebuilding relations with Damascus after years of tension.
Syria was suspended from the Arab League in 2011 over Assad’s brutal repression of protests and several Gulf states supported armed opposition to his rule.
But Assad has regained control of most of Syria with military and economic support from Russia and Iran, Syria was readmitted to the Arab League in May and regional countries are seeking dialogue with him to end drug smuggling and sending back millions of refugees.
Syria has agreed to end drug trafficking across its borders with Jordan and Iraq.
Top Syrian officials and family members of Assad have been placed on sanctions lists in the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union in recent months for their alleged links to the trade.
The Syrian government denies involvement in the drug trade.
(Reporting by Timour Azhari; editing by Alexandra Hudson)