New rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iraq

The foreign ministers of the two countries meet in Riyadh to bring them closer together
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Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores de Rusia via REUTERS  -   Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud

The situation in the Middle East is not the calmest in recent years. It is true that peace has never prevailed in the region, but the Taliban takeover of Kabul has further agitated relations between all countries. As a result, economic and leadership leaders have been working to strengthen the alliances they have been cultivating for years. In this case, Saudi Arabia, which is keeping a close eye on developments in Afghanistan, has met with Iraq to strengthen relations and improve the agreements that bind the two countries.

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud met with his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein on Thursday. The meeting took place in the context of meetings of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) at a time when talks between all the countries have intensified in recent days. The Iraqis have said they will increase their efforts to improve security across the region and will try to bring other Gulf states, including Iran, closer together.

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REUTERS/MANDEL NGAN-Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

The conflict in Yemen was also one of the issues discussed by the two countries' representatives due to the important role that Saudi Arabia has been playing for years. Iraq's foreign minister has strongly condemned the attacks on Riyadh by Iranian-backed and funded Houthi militias. He also reaffirmed the GCC's support for the legitimate and internationally recognised government of Yemen, led by Abd Rabbuh Mansur al-Hadi. Saudi Arabia has seen the Houthis attack the population and even carry out military drone offensives against civilian airports, further fuelling the conflict that has led to Yemen's worst humanitarian crisis in living memory since World War II.

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AFP/FABRICE COFFRINI  -   Iraqi President Barham Saleh at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, 22 January 2020.

It is important to note that just a week ago Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kazimi travelled to Tehran to discuss not only the energy issue but also relations with Saudi Arabia with Iran. Energy shortages force the Iraqis to rely on Iran, which supplies up to a third of all gas and electricity consumed in Iraq. Iraq's non-payments forced Ebrahim Raisi's country to halt exports for a few days this summer.

Saudi Arabia was also at the centre of a meeting with the Iranians less than a month ago in Baghdad. Negotiations between the two countries have been ongoing since April this year with the aim of resuming relations broken in 2016 due to the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran and the Iranian reaction to the execution of dissident Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr. The Saudi-Iraqi rapprochement may also have an indirect positive effect on the currently non-existent ties between Riyadh and Tehran. As such, Saudi Arabia continues to improve relations with its neighbours and strengthen its position as it awaits new opportunities to expand its sphere of influence.