Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir made a surprise trip to Iraq on Saturday, the first trip there by a Saudi foreign minister since 1990.
While in Baghdad, Al-Jubeir met with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi and his counterpart, Ibrahim Al-Jaafari. Al-Jubeir said that Saudi Arabia plans to appoint a new ambassador and resume direct flights between the two countries, Reuters reports, citing an unnamed Iraqi foreign ministry official.
The visit is an attempt by Saudi Arabia to mend diplomatic relations with Baghdad.
Last year, Saudi Arabia installed an ambassador in Iraq for the first time 25 years, but Iraqi leaders subsequently demanded that he be removed after he made remarks about Iranian influence in Iraq.
“During the meeting, the strengthening of bilateral relations between the two countries were discussed,” a statement from from Al-Abadi’s office said, “and the guaranteed ways of enhancing relations in all fields and the fight against the terrorist ISIS.”
“It’s the hope of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to build excellent relations between the two brotherly countries,” Al-Jubeir said. “There are also many shared interests, from fighting extremism and terrorism [to] opportunities for investment and trade between the two countries.”
The timing of the visit is fortuitous for the two nations to build a diplomatic relationship, columnist Abdulrahman Al-Rasheed wrote in Arab News.
“[G]iven the circumstances, this is a crucial initiative that has the potential to put relations between the two countries on a different footing, particularly in view of the fact that there are no major disagreements between the two,” Al-Rasheed wrote. “Al-Jubeir’s visit to Baghdad is an important diplomatic step at a time when the entire region needs more cooperation to decrease tension and chaos, and form a common front to fight terrorism and possible aggression from different areas.”