Saudi Arabia and Iraq plan to
open the Arar border crossing for trade for the first time since
1990, when it was closed after the countries cut ties following
Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, Saudi local media reported
Saudi and Iraqi officials toured the site on Monday and
spoke with Iraqi religious pilgrims, who for the past 27 years
had access to the crossing only once annually during the haj
season, the Mecca newspaper reported.
The governor of Iraq’s southwestern Anbar province, whose
staff was on hand for the ceremonies, said the Iraqi government
had deployed troops to protect the desert route leading to Arar
and called its opening a “significant move” to boost ties.
“This is a great start for further future cooperation
between Iraq and Saudia Arabia,” said Sohaib al-Rawi.
The announcement follows a decision by the Saudi cabinet on
Monday to establish a joint trade commission with Iraq.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are both wooing
their northern neighbour in an effort to halt the growing
regional influence of arch-foe Iran.
The Sunni-led Arab Gulf countries have hosted influential
Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr for talks with their crown
princes in recent weeks, rare visits after years of troubled
Sadr’s office said his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince
Mohammed bin Salman resulted in an agreement for Saudi Arabia to
donate $10 million in aid to the Iraqi government and study
possible investments in Shi’ite regions of southern Iraq.
The opening of border crossings for trade was also on a list
of goals for the talks published by Sadr’s office.
Sadr commands a large following among the urban poor of
Baghdad and southern Iraq, and is one of few Iraqi Shi’ite
leaders to keep some distance from Tehran.
The Saudi-Iraqi rapprochement extends back to 2015, when
Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Baghdad following a 25-year
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir visited Baghdad in
February, and the two countries announced in June they would set
up a coordination council to upgrade ties.