Iraq and Saudi Arabia will converge to de-escalate regional tensions

In an effort to curb Iranian influence in Iraq, the Foreign Ministers of the two states met this week

Russian Foreign Ministry via REUTERS  -   Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud

The West is moving to build closer cooperation with Iraq as a measure to curb the Islamic Republic's influence in the economy and politics of its neighbouring country. The meeting also discussed investment and energy issues. Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein met with Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud on Thursday. They discussed bilateral relations and the latest developments in the region, according to a statement issued by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. The Saudi diplomats' visit to Iraq is the first since Mohammed Shia al-Sudani came to power.

"This important visit comes at a time marked by great challenges, so it is essential to talk and discuss these challenges that affect the region as a whole," Hussein said, along with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan. Hussein added that in oil matters, the Arab state's cooperation is full within the OPEC+ framework. To which Faisal replied that Riyadh was ready to support Saudi companies investing in Iraq: 'We expect Iraq to receive electricity, either through the Saudi grid or through the Gulf'. In addition, Iraq has been collaborating with Saudi Arabia on counter-terrorism, security and the fight against drug gangs.

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

For his part, Hussein described the Saudi foreign minister's visit as "important" and coming at a very sensitive time, adding that there is full coordination on political, commercial and security cooperation. Earlier this week, French President Emmanuel Macron met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohamed Shia al-Sudani, where the two signed a series of strategic agreements aimed at boosting Iraq's economic cooperation with the European country. At the meeting, France and Iraq signed a treaty aimed at strengthening bilateral relations in anti-corruption, security, renewable energy and culture, the Elysee Palace said on Friday.

Iraq suffers from a severe electricity shortage despite being an oil-rich country, among other problems, due to a high level of political corruption. To compensate for the lack of electricity, it is necessary to cut off the supply, which the majority of the Iraqi population cannot afford. Al-Sudani, on the other hand, expressed hope for security, indicating that they expect cooperation between the two countries in the security field, especially in training and developing Iraq's security capabilities, as well as in the procurement of weapons. Climate change and drought are among Iraq's main challenges.

AFP/HAIDAR MOHAMMED - Oil refinery in Iraq

In 2021, the Arab country suffered one of the driest seasons in 40 years due to low rainfall. Over the past decades, the flows of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, the source of almost all the region's surface water, have declined by about 40%, according to UN figures. Like Saudi Arabia, the other participating countries have also expressed their commitment to Iraq's sovereignty, as well as their willingness to expand "regional economic cooperation, bridge-building and the promotion of social dialogue" in order to "end tensions and build constructive regional ties that will achieve joint benefit".