Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spoke late on Tuesday and agreed to enhance bilateral relations and co-operate to stabilise oil prices, which have plummeted on the international market.
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Both sides stressed the importance of “expanding and enhancing co-operation to serve the interest of brotherly people in both countries in different areas, especially in politics, security, commercial investment and tourism” according to a joint statement issued after the meeting.
The Arar border crossing between Saudi Arabia and Iraq, which has been closed for decades to commercial traffic, will be reopened next week, along with a commercial consul in Baghdad.
In the energy sector, the countries, which are the two major oil producers in Opec, agreed on “co-ordinating stances” and committing to “all decisions that have been agreed upon in a manner that guarantees reaching fair and appropriate oil prices for exporters and consumers”.
Among the deals signed was one that prompted fiery statements from Iran-backed factions in Iraq, highlighting the challenges facing moderate Iraqi leaders in forging ties with Sunni Arab countries and attracting foreign investment.
As both sides announced Saudi Arabia’s willingness to invest in Iraq’s agricultural sector in four provinces – Anbar, Muthana, Najaf and Basra – the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl Al Haq militia issued a series of statements warning that the project “poses dangerous security threats” to the country’s stability and will strengthen Saudi Arabia’s hand in Iraq.
The kingdom severed ties with Iraq in 1990 after Saddam Hussein ordered an invasion of neighbouring Kuwait.
With US backing, it reopened its Baghdad embassy in 2016 in an attempt to forge ties to counter Iran’s influence as Iraq emerged from the battle against ISIS.
After the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled the Saddam regime, Saudi Arabia has viewed subsequent Shiite-led, Iran-backed Iraqi governments with increasing suspicion.
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