Saudi Arabia inaugurates commercial attaché office in Baghdad

Riyadh is fully engaging with Baghdad to establish a hospital and metal grain silo warehouse

A Saudi border guards' vehicle patrols the fence separating Saudi Arabia and Iraq, in the area around Arar city along the Saudi-Iraq border on March 12, 2017. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP)
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Saudi Arabia inaugurated a commercial attaché office at its embassy in Baghdad this week, as part of efforts to boost ties between the neighbouring states.

The move is being seen as one of the biggest steps taken so far in normalising relations.

Trade Minister Majid Al Qasabi hosted the ceremony alongside Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Iraq, Abdulaziz Al Shammari.

Officials also signed a number of economic deals.

“The two sides also signed a loan agreeing to establish metal grain silos to store wheat in Al Diwaniya province and a hospital in Al Saqlawiya, Anbar province,” Saudi Press Agency reported.

Riyadh started engaging with its northern neighbour after the US-led invasion that toppled former dictator Saddam Hussein in 2003.

It reopened its embassy in Baghdad in 2015.

Ties between the two deteriorated following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in the early 1990s.

Mr Al Qasabi landed in Baghdad on Monday alongside a ministerial delegation to discuss with their Iraqi counterparts the framework of the Saudi-Iraqi Co-ordination Council on Economic, Trade, Investment and Relief matters.

The council was set up in 2017 to upgrade strategic ties as part of an attempt to heal troubled relations.

During the visit the Saudi official met, separately, with President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi to discuss further steps needed to enhance ties in all state sectors.

Mr Al Qasabi told Mr Salih that Saudi Arabia was committed “to supporting the stability of Iraq and strengthening co-operation between the two countries in the fields of economy, investment, and trade".

The Saudi official also stressed the need to “strengthen the existing co-operation” between the two sides so they can face common challenges, such as confronting the coronavirus pandemic.

“This will reflect the welfare and stability of the two countries as well as strengthening regional peace," said the statement by SPA.

Recent economic developments between the two include the opening of the main border crossing at Arar last month, after a 30-year closure dating to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.