Saudi Arabia enhances military ties with Iraq

Meeting between top officials establishes joint army exercises and training exchanges

Workers paving a road as part of a project in the central Iraqi Najaf governorate, of a land route that will link Najaf to Saudi Arabia. AFP
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Saudi Arabia and Iraq discussed military and security ties on Tuesday in an effort to upgrade relations between the neighbouring states.

The meeting was chaired remotely by Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein and his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan, as part of the political, security and military committee of the Iraqi-Saudi Co-ordination Council.

The council was set up in 2017 to help rebuild areas devastated by ISIS in Iraq and to assist the country’s economic growth.

“The two sides agreed to enhance their military ties by establishing joint exercises and to exchange training courses and experiences in strategic planning, and to continue supporting Iraq's efforts in co-operation with the international coalition to combat ISIS,” said a statement by the council.

“The goal is to create a common vision for the most important issues of concern,” it said.

The meeting comes as the Saudi Minister of Communication Abdullah Al Swaha held talks with his Iraqi counterpart Arkan Al Shaibani to increase digital ties in the fields of economy and politics between the two states.

The ministers negotiated how Saudi Arabia’s technology businesses can expand to Iraqi markets and ways to transform Iraq’s digital, communication and infrastructure fields.

Saudi Arabia has repeatedly said it is ready to work with Iraq and strengthen the “historic ties” between the two countries, to ensure the region’s security and prevent external interference.

Relations between Baghdad and Riyadh have improved in recent years, especially since Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Baghdad in 2016 after 25 years.

Until the reopening, consular services were unavailable in Iraq and Iraqis applying for visas had to go through the Saudi embassy in Jordan. The kingdom cut diplomatic ties with Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990.

The reopening of the Arar border, a major land border crossing in late 2020, was hailed as an “investment gateway” that would strengthen economic relations after 30 years of sealed land borders between the two nations.

Access through the Saudi town of Arar, 70 kilometres from the Iraqi border, was closed after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. Its reopening marked a major breakthrough in ties between Riyadh and Baghdad.

In war-torn Iraq, investment from Saudi Arabia is likely to be crucial for its economy.

Updated: January 11, 2022, 1:01 PM