Saudi Arabia and Iran vie for influence in Iraq with competing trade delegations
Iraq is seeking to become a platform for progress in the region, says Presdient Barham Salih
A joint Iraqi-Saudi coordination council meeting will convene in April to enhance economic and commercial ties between the neighbouring nations, a statement by the Iraqi Presidency said on Saturday.
A delegation led by Saudi Minister of Trade Majid Al Kassabi arrived in Baghdad on Thursday, meeting with several top Iraqi officials to discuss the council’s next steps.
“Iraq seeks to create a system of common economic interests with the Kingdom and the countries of the region in general,” the statement said.
Baghdad wants to become a “platform for the achievement of prosperity and progress for the region,” said the statement.
In October 2017, two months before Iraq declared victory over ISIS, the two nations decided to establish the council to help rebuild devastated areas retaken from the militants in Iraq.
During his visit, Mr Al Kassabi held talks with Iraqi President Barham Salih to discuss how how Saudi businesses can support development projects in Iraq.
The meeting between the two officials touched upon the memorandum of understandings that will be signed during next month's meeting in Baghdad.
Mr Al Kassabi said the Kingdom is ready to cooperate with Baghdad in the fields of economy, oil and electricity.
The Saudi trade minister also said the Arar border crossing is expected to re-open for the first time since 1990 by the end of this year, in an effort to boost trade ties.
Relations between Riyadh and Baghdad became limited following the 1991 Iraq invasion of Kuwait. It wasn't until the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 that a new political opening appeared.
For war-torn Iraq, the Kingdom’s investment could be crucial for spurring economic growth.
Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi is expected to visit Saudi Arabia soon.
The Kingdom views efforts to strengthen relations with Iraq as a way to curb Iran’s influence in the region.
The 2015 opening of the Saudi embassy in Baghdad and consulates in the cities of Najaf and Basra were key developments in this policy. This was followed in 2017 by a visit by then Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir to Baghdad and resumption of regular flights between the two countries.
Meanwhile officials from Tehran were also in Baghdad last week in a bid to strengthen trade and economic ties.
A delegation led by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrived in Baghdad last Monday for a three-day visit that saw the signing of multiple preliminary deals.
Updated: March 17, 2019 05:46 PM