Saudi Ara­bia to re­open bor­der with Iraq

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Saudi Ara­bia plans to open the Arar bor­der cross­ing with Iraq for the first time since 1990, ac­cord­ing to Saudi lo­cal news me­dia and of­fi­cials. Ab­dul Aziz al-Sham­mari, Saudi charge d’af­faires in Bagh­dad, said on Tues­day “the cross­ing that will open soon will be ded­i­cated to the trans­porta­tion of goods”. The Mecca news­pa­per re­ported that Saudi and Iraqi of­fi­cials toured the site on Mon­day and spoke with Iraqi re­li­gious pil­grims, who had ac­cess to the cross­ing only once an­nu­ally dur­ing the Hajj pil­grim­age sea­son. So­haib al-Rawi, the gov­er­nor of Iraq’s south­west­ern An­bar prov­ince, whose staff was on hand for the cer­e­monies, said the Iraqi gov­ern­ment had de­ployed troops to pro­tect the desert route lead­ing to Arar and called its open­ing a “sig­nif­i­cant move” to boost ties “This is a great start for fur­ther fu­ture co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Iraq and Saudi Ara­bia,” said al-Rawi. The bor­der was closed af­ter Bagh­dad and Riyadh cut ties fol­low­ing for­mer Iraqi Pres­i­dent Sad­dam Hus­sein’s in­va­sion of Kuwait. The an­nounce­ment fol­lows a de­ci­sion by the Saudi cabi­net on Mon­day to es­tab­lish a joint trade com­mis­sion with Iraq. Saudi Ara­bia and the United Arab Emi­rates are both cur­rently woo­ing their north­ern neigh­bour in an ef­fort to halt the grow­ing re­gional in­flu­ence of archri­val Iran. The Sunni-led Arab Gulf coun­tries have hosted in­flu­en­tial Iraqi Shia leader Muq­tada al-Sadr for talks with their crown princes in re­cent weeks, rare vis­its af­ter years of trou­bled re­la­tions. Sadr’s of- fice said his meet­ing with Mohammed bin Sal­man, the Saudi crown prince, re­sulted in an agree­ment for Saudi Ara­bia to do­nate 10m in aid to the Iraqi gov­ern­ment and study pos­si­ble in­vest­ments in Shia re­gions of south­ern Iraq. The open­ing of bor­der cross­ings for trade was also on a list of goals for the talks pub­lished by Sadr’s of­fice. Sadr com­mands a large fol­low­ing among the ur­ban poor of Bagh­dad and south­ern Iraq and is one of few Iraqi Shia lead­ers to keep some dis­tance from the Ira­nian gov­ern­ment. The Saudi-Iraqi rap­proche­ment ex­tends back to 2015 when Saudi Ara­bia re­opened its em­bassy in Bagh­dad fol­low­ing a 25-year break. Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi for­eign min­is­ter, vis­ited Bagh­dad in Fe­bru­ary, and the two coun­tries an­nounced in June they would set up a co­or­di­na­tion coun­cil to up­grade ties. Source: Al-Jazeera

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