Iraq-Saudi Arabia border crossing opens for the first time since 1990

The Arar crossing was shut down after the two countries cut ties following Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait

A handout picture released by the Iraqi Border Crossing Commission on November 18, 2020 shows the Arar border crossing between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Iraq and Saudi Arabia on November 18, 2020 reopened the Arar desert crossing, a long-awaited sign of closer trade ties after 30 years of sealed land borders between the two countries. -  == RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / Iraqi Borders Authority" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS ==
 / AFP / Iraq Border Authority / - /  == RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / HO / Iraqi Borders Authority" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS ==

Iraq and Saudi Arabia reopened a major border crossing that remained closed for decades in the latest sign of thawing relations between the two neighbours.

Iraqi Interior Minister, Othman Al Ghanimi, and Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Baghdad attended Wednesday’s ceremony, according to a government statement.

The kingdom severed ties with Iraq, along with other countries, following Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. After the Iraqi regime fell as a result of the 2003 US-led invasion, Saudi Arabia kept Shiite-led Iraqi governments at arm's length for their alignment with Iran.

In an attempt to counter Iran's influence in Iraq, the two countries with the US assistance started to forge ties in 2016 as Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Baghdad and Iraq emerged from more than three years of fighting ISIS.

The presence of moderate Shiite politicians at the helm has helped to improve ties.

Last week, the two neighbours signed a series of agreements relating to politics, security and commerce. Inside Opec, they also agreed to continue co-operation on stabilising oil prices in international markets.

The rapprochement between Iraq and Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab countries has caused a backlash from Iran's allies in Baghdad.

Shortly after last week's announcement that Saudi Arabia is to invest in Iraq’s agricultural sector in four provinces – Anbar, Muthana, Najaf and Basra – Iran-aligned group Asaib Ahal Al Haq started a campaign to denounce the deal and to portray it as a threat to Iraq’s security.

On Tuesday, a Telegram channel followed by Shiite militias published a statement from the newly formed Ahal Al Kahaf group, warning of attacks against Saudi Arabian and UAE interests in Iraq.

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