Iraqi prime minister in Saudi Arabia to discuss regional tensions

Adel Abdul Mahdi's visit reflects improved ties between neighbours

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi speaks to the media during a joint news conference with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, May 15, 2019. Erdogan says Turkey and Iraq have discussed a possible deal to increase military and security cooperation between the neighboring countries. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
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Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to discuss regional tension with King Salman, signalling the improvement in ties between the two countries after 25 years of estrangement.

The rapprochement began in 2015, when Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Baghdad. The embassy was closed in 1990 as the kingdom severed ties with Iraq following former dictator Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.

The Iraqi prime minister is expected to meet King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah during a visit lasting several hours.

Mr Abdul Mahdi will assert “Iraq’s firm stance on playing a positive role in easing regional tension and resolving their conflicts”, his office said.

On September 14, a major Saudi oil processing plant and oilfield to the south were hit by missiles and drones.

The attacks immediately escalated tension in the region amid a standoff between the US and Iran.

Although Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility, Washington said Tehran was behind the attacks that risked disrupting global oil supplies.

Wednesday's visit will be Mr Abdul Mahdi's second to the kingdom since taking office in October last year.

Riyadh has been working to strengthen relations with Baghdad to halt the growing regional influence of Iran, while Iraqi officials are seeking economic benefits from closer ties with the kingdom.

King Salman has said the kingdom would provide Iraq $1 billion (Dh3.67bn) to build sport facilities and the Arar border crossing shared by the two countries would be partly reopened for trade next month.

The opening of the border has been discussed for several years. The move would increase economic and trade ties as well as make it easier for Iraqi pilgrims to visit the holy city of Makkah.