Saudi to name ambassador to Iraq after deputy prime minister's visit

Saudi-Iraq relations have long been fraught by Baghdad's close ties to Tehran

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi uses his mobile phone at his office in Baghdad, Iraq May 9, 2020. Picture taken May 9, 2020. Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
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In a sign of warming ties between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the kingdom is set to announce a new ambassador to Baghdad after a visit by Deputy Prime Minister and acting finance and oil minister Dr Ali Allawi.

The diplomat will replace Abdul Aziz Al Shammari who served as ambassador to Iraq from December 2017 until last year.

Mr Allawi met with several senior Saudi ministers and his trip comes just weeks after Iraq’s new prime minister, Mustafa Al Kadhimi, secured the majority of his new cabinet and took office.

Relations between Saudi and Iraq have been fraught by Iran’s proximity to senior Iraqi figures and its ongoing backing of Iraqi militias that are part of the national security structure.

However, analysts said that the two countries may benefit from Mr Al Kadhimi’s close ties to the west from his time as head of intelligence.

Saudi Arabia’s deputy Defence Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman said Riyadh looks forward to “Iraq rising from the ashes to regain its status as one of the strong and resilient pillars of the Arab world.”

“The Kingdom stands with Iraq to support it in its journey towards progress, peace and brotherhood with its Arab neighbours, for the benefit of Iraq and its dear people,” he said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan passed on a message to Mr Allawi from King Salman, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi government that Riyadh ready to cooperate with the new government to achieve common interests and ensure regional security and stability.

Mr Allawi also said they had reached a deal on investment for Saudi companies in the Okaz gas fields.

Mr Al Kadhimi is expected to reach out to Arabian neighbours to boost ties in a bid to get help in addressing the country’s dire economic crisis and crumbling infrastructure.