Iranian Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian arrived in Baghdad this morning, heading an economic delegation, on a one-day visit. For its part, the Iranian Gas Company said that the reduction in supplies to Iraq took place due to arrears of more than $ 6 billion.
A spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity, Ahmed Musa, said in a statement to Al-Jazeera that Ardakanian will discuss the export of gas and the dues owed by Baghdad, indicating that Iran’s debts amount to 2.6 billion dollars.
Moussa indicated that the Iranian delegation would meet Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi and a number of officials.
The Iranian Gas Company said yesterday that it reduced supplies to Iraq due to arrears exceeding $ 6 billion, after the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity said that the cuts exposed Baghdad and other cities to a serious shortage of electricity.
“The Iraqi Ministry of Electricity owes more than $ 5 billion, which is the value of the gas bills of the National Gas Company, of which 3 billion are still withheld and inaccessible to the Iraqi Trade Bank, as well as debts owed by more than two billion dollars,” the company added in a statement.
Iran cannot access billions of dollars in assets in several countries due to US sanctions.
The Iranian side had previously reduced the gas supply to Iraq from 50 million cubic meters to 3 million within one month, due to failure to pay the debts owed by it, which affected the energy supply in Iraq.
The electricity shortage that Iraq fears may put more pressure on the Kazemi government.
Washington has repeatedly extended the exemption from sanctions, for a period of 90 or 120 days, to allow Baghdad to import energy from Iran, but last November it granted an extension of 45 days only.