18:12 GMT12 June 2021
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    Iraq and Saudi Arabia are reportedly planning to open the Arar border for trade for the first time in nearly 30 years. The border has been shuttered since the two nations severed their relationship in 1990 after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

    Saudi local media reports that on Monday officials from both countries toured the area and spoke with religious pilgrims from Iraq, who have only had access to the area once a year, while making the hajj to Mecca, over the last 27 years.

    Sohaib al-Rawi, governor of Anbar province in southwest Iraq, called the opening of Arar a "significant move" that would help strengthen ties between Baghdad and Riyadh, and that Iraq had sent troops to help protect the route leading up to the border.

    Al-Rawi said, "This is a great start for further future cooperation between Iraq and Saudi Arabia."

    This agreement follows the Saudi cabinet announcement on Monday that the Saudi kingdom and the Iraqi republic would be establishing a joint trade commission. Saudi Arabia, along with other regional powers like the United Arab Emirates, hope to counter growing Iranian influence in the Persian Gulf region by warming up to Iraq.

    The relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iraq showed signs of improvement in June when Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi visited the kingdom for talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

    The talks focused on the need to "explore opportunities to support economic and trade relations," according to Al Araby. A series of visits from other high-ranking Iraqi officials followed Al-Abadi.

    After years of strained relations,  Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr was recently hosted by  Sunni-led Arab Gulf countries, and his meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman resulted in a $10 million aid package to Iraq from Riyadh with potential investments in southern Iraq’s Shi'ite areas, where Sadr holds considerable influence.


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    diplomatic relations, border conflict, border, Salman bin Abdulaziz, Haidar al-Abadi, Saudi Arabia, Iraq
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