Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister visits Baghdad for talks on regional security

Discussions will focus on Iraq's role in 'bridging the gap in the region', says Iraqi Foreign Ministry

Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal Bin Farhan is received in Baghdad by Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein. AP
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Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan visited Baghdad on Thursday for talks on regional security with Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein.

In his first visit to Iraq since taking the post in 2019, Prince Faisal said relations between the nations were "positively gaining momentum".

He said officials were working towards more economic co-operation and boosting stability in the region.

"Through dialogue, Iraq plays an important and vital role in stabilising the region," Prince Faisal said.

The visit comes at a crucial time for the region, Mr Hussein said.

Authorities in the country are co-ordinating on the "oil policy awaiting Opec and Opec+", he said.

Saudi Arabia and Iraq signed an electrical interconnection agreement in 2022. The electrical interconnection is expected to link the Arar area in northern Saudi Arabia to Yusufiya near Baghdad and has the capacity of 1,000 megawatts and a voltage of 400 kilovolts, with a length of 435 km.

“We are looking forward to importing electricity either from the Saudi Arabia grid of the Gulf grid."

Ahmed Al Sahaf, a spokesman for Iraq’s Foreign Ministry, said before Prince Farhan's arrival that the discussions would focus on "co-operation between the two countries and the meetings of the joint co-ordination committee between Baghdad and Riyadh".

“The two sides will also discuss the security and stability of the region and the Iraqi role in bridging the gaps and dialogues in the region,” Mr Al Sahaf said.

Direct talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which Iraq has hosted since 2021, were expected to form an important part of Thursday's meeting in Baghdad.

The talks were initiated under former Iraqi prime minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi's government with the aim of making the country a key player in efforts to support regional co-operation.

Mr Hussein, who also served as Foreign Minister under Mr Al Kadhimi, said the new government of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani would continue to push for negotiations.

Prince Faisal said last month that dialogue was the only way to settle regional differences.

“We are trying to find a path for dialogue with everyone and to focus on development,” he said told the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Saudi Arabia severed relations with Iraq after it invaded Kuwait in 1990.

But reconciliation between Baghdad and the kingdom began in 2015, when Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Baghdad.

Mr Al Sahaf said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was also scheduled to visit the Iraqi capital this month.

“The Russian Foreign Minister will be in Baghdad between February 5 or 6, leading a senior delegation including diplomats, businessmen and journalists,” Mr Al Sahaf said.

“They will hold deep discussions on different issues in different sectors, including economic development and the bilateral relations."

Updated: February 02, 2023, 1:38 PM