ABU DHABI // Nouri al Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, is due in the capital today on a two-day visit, just weeks after the Government announced plans to reopen its embassy in Baghdad. During the trip, Mr Maliki is expected to meet with Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. He is also scheduled to meet members of the Iraqi community before departing tomorrow.
Ismat Siddiq, the Iraqi Consul General in Dubai, said the prime minister's visit is an indication of the strengthening ties between the two countries. "The prime minister is coming to the country to strengthen bilateral relations," he said. "The UAE in particular is one of the most important Arab countries to Iraq ... The Emirates is playing a leading role in rebuilding Iraq, through providing monetary and material support."
Mr Maliki's visit comes a month after Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, travelled to Iraq - the first visit by a foreign minister from a GCC country since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. During Sheikh Abdullah's trip, he announced that the Government would re-establish its diplomatic mission in Iraq, two years after recalling all embassy staff following the kidnapping of Naji al Nuaimi, the embassy's first secretary.
In May 2006, the young diplomat from Dibba Al Hosn, near Fujairah, was taken hostage after an attack on his convoy that left his Iraqi driver dead. He was held hostage for 15 days by a militant group. The Government is expected to name the new UAE ambassador to Iraq soon and Mr Siddiq said further details about the new embassy would be revealed in the next few days. "The UAE Embassy will open again soon in Baghdad and they are just getting all of the logistics in place," said Mr Siddiq, adding that there were about 200,000 Iraqis residing in the UAE.
The UAE is one of several Arab states that have signalled their intention to reopen diplomatic missions in Baghdad. Jordan has recently appointed an ambassador to Iraq for the first time in five years, and Bahrain and Kuwait are expected to reopen their embassies. The plans are seen as a significant boost to the Iraqi government, which has worked to encourage Arab governments to re-establish their diplomatic presence in the capital.