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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Iraqi PM arrives in Riyadh for talks on reconstruction and Iran

The visit by Haider Al Abadi is his second to the kingdom this year as the two countries seek to rebuild relations and counter Iran

Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud welcomes Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi in Riyadh. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS
Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud welcomes Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi in Riyadh. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi arrived in Saudi Arabia on Saturday for talks about rebuilding his country after the war on ISIL and fostering economic and trade links, his office said in a statement.

The visit - the prime minister's second to the kingdom this year - has potential benefits for both sides with Iraq seeking economic benefits while Saudi Arabia hopes a stronger relationship with Baghdad would help rollback Iran's influence in the region.

Iraq lies on the fault line between Shi'ite Muslim power Iran and the Sunni-ruled countries that are its regional arch-rivals, chief among them Saudi Arabia.

The two countries began taking steps towards detente in 2015 after 25 years of troubled relations starting with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Tension remained high after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which toppled Saddam Hussein. The American occupation of Iraq empowered political parties representing Iraq's Shi'ite majority, close to Saudi Arabia's regional rival Iran.

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Signs of improving relations came on Wednesday when a Saudi commercial airplane, operated by Flynas, arrived in Baghdad for the first time in 27 years. In August, the two countries said they planned to open the Arar land border crossing for trade for the first time since 1990.

The prime minister is due to visit other Middle Eastern countries after his visit to Riyadh.

The visit coincided with a high-profile visit the other way with Saudi Oil Minister Khalid Al Falih becoming the first official from the kingdom to make a public speech in Baghdad for decades.