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Iran and Iraq hold talks on border dispute

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian and Iraqi commanders expressed hope after a meeting on Monday the two neighbors would resolve “misunderstandings” over their joint border, Iranian media reported.

Earlier this month the two countries’ foreign ministers said Tehran and Baghdad had begun talks, after a small contingent of Iranian troops moved into an oilfield inside Iraqi territory in December and Iraq vowed it would not give up an inch of land.

The dispute is over an inactive oil well in a sensitive area along the nearly 1,500-km (900-mile) joint border.

The seizure of the well, which Iraq claims as part of its Fakka oilfield in southeastern Maysan province, triggered protests from Baghdad and jitters on world oil markets. Tehran called the incident a “misunderstanding.”

Iranian state broadcaster IRIB said Brigadier-General Hossein Zolfaqari, who headed Iran’s delegation at Monday’s meeting of senior border guard officials, said it was important to have close cooperation between the two countries.

After talks in the Iranian border town of Qasr-e Shirin, he expressed hope that “existing misunderstandings” would be resolved through the implementation of border agreements dating back to 1975, IRIB said, without giving details.

Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency quoted the head of Iraq’s delegation as saying “problems and misunderstandings in the marine and land sections” of the border must be resolved quickly. It gave his name as Brigadier General Mohsen Abdolhossein.

The resolution of border issues would help “bring the expansion of ties into a new phase,” he said, according to Fars.

The Iranian media reports did not say whether the two sides reached any concrete agreements at Monday’s meeting.

Iraqi officials said in December a dozen Iranian soldiers had moved 100 meters into Iraqi territory and raised the Iranian flag over the disputed well. Iraq later said the Iranians had moved away from the well but were still on Iraqi soil.

The well was drilled in 1979 and provided about 3,000 barrels a day at the time, but has been inactive since 1980 due to the war between the two countries in the 1980s.

Fakka is part of the Maysan oilfield complex, which has reserves of about 2.5 billion barrels. Iraq tried unsuccessfully to auction it off to foreign oil firms last year.

Reporting by Hashem Kalantari; writing by Fredrik Dahl; editing by Andrew Roche