Will Iraq's new government warm ties with neighbouring Saudi Arabia?

Will Iraq's new government warm ties with neighbouring Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia will reappoint an ambassador to Iraq, a Saudi official said, adding that the kingdom is keen on cooperating with the new government.
3 min read
24 May, 2020
Iraq formed a new government after six months of uncertainty on May 7 [Twitter]
Saudi Arabia and Iraq have agreed to restore diplomatic relations, reports confirmed, as the kingdom is set to invest in a Baghdad gas field and will reportedly lend $3 billion to cover Iraq's budget deficit.

Saudi's Foreign Minister said on Saturday that King Salman had instructed the kingdom to reinstate its ambassador to Iraq "as soon as possible." Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud's comments followed a meeting with an Iraqi official aimed at restoring relations.

"The instructions of King Salman were issued to reflect the kingdom's desire to strengthen relations between the two countries," the Saudi official said in comments after he met with newly appointed Iraqi Finance Minister Ali Allawi, who arrived to Riyadh on an official visit on Friday.

Bin Farhan said his kingdom was aware of the "importance of cooperation with the new Iraqi government to achieve common interests and enhance bilateral relations between the two brotherly countries," and would support Iraq's security, stability and its fight against terrorism.

Saudi Arabia reopened its Baghdad embassy in 2015 – fifteen years after closing it due to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 – and appointed Samer Al-Sabhan as its ambassador.

The following year, Baghdad requested to replace Al-Shahban. Saudi Arabia accused Iraq of meddling with its internal affairs and reduced its diplomatic representation in the country to the rank of charge d'affaires, and has not appointed a new ambassador since.

Allawi welcomed Riyadh's willingness to restore its full mission in Iraq, and said his country "appreciates the Saudi decision to return the kingdom's ambassador to Baghdad."

In a broadcast aired by Saudi channel Al Arabiya on Saturday, Allawi, who is also Iraq's acting oil minister, said Saudi companies have agreed to invest in the west-Baghdad Akkas gas field.

The Iraq official said his discussions will focus on encouraging Saudi companies and institutions to enter the Iraqi market and play an active role in Iraq's reconstruction. 

The two countries would also coordinate with all oil producing countries to restore balance to the oil market, according to Saudi reports.

The Saudi and Iraqi officials reportedly addressed the prospect of reopening the Araar – the Saudi-Iraq border crossing.

Read more: Iraq's finance minister visits Saudi Arabia to seek Gulf funds to stave off fiscal collapse

Saudi Prince Khalid bin Salman, Deputy Minister of Defence and son of the ruling king, said the kingdom is rooting for Iraq.

"We hope Iraq reverts to being one of the strong Arab pillars that stands strong, and that its people live the life they deserve in peace," Prince Khalid bin Salman said. 

"The kingdom stands by Iraq to support its advancement, peace and brotherhood with its Arab neighbours," the prince added.

Iraq is currently facing a liquidity crisis due to the collapse of crude oil prices during the coronavirus pandemic. This has raised concerns over the government's ability to pay salaries to some four million state workers. 

Allawi's Saudi visit is the first of a series of planned visits to tackle the budget crisis, bolster regional relations and encourage economic cooperation.

In his first official visit as minister, Allawi also met Saudi finance and energy ministers.

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