Iraq PM seeking to ‘normalize relations’ with Saudi Arabia

Iraq’s prime minister, speaking on a high-level meeting in the US capital, has indicated that Baghdad seeks to “normalize” relations with Saudi Arabia.

Improved regional relations, the fight against Daesh and support from the US were all on the agenda during Haider Al-Abadi’s visit to Washington, which on Monday saw him meet US President Donald Trump for the first time in the Oval Office.

The Iraqi prime minister struck a different tone to his predecessor Nuri Al-Maliki, in welcoming better relations with Iraq’s Arab neighbors including Saudi Arabia.

This comes a month after Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir visited Baghdad — the first such visit by a Saudi official since 1991.

Al-Abadi said the “Saudi relations are warming, and at a very good track.”

In a speech delivered to the United States Institute of Peace after his meeting with Trump, Al-Abadi spoke of “an opening for a very good neighborly relationship” with Saudi Arabia.

“Don’t forget no Saudi official has visited Baghdad since 1991, not even after 2003, this is the first time, we welcome it,” he said.

The visit by Al-Jubeir was good for Saudi Arabia “to see what is happening in Iraq”, he added. “Our Saudi friends used to think Iraq is under control of our Iranian neighbors, but we are not and they saw for themselves,” Al-Abadi told his US audience.

Saudi-Iraqi cooperation to boost commercial and humanitarian ties could be one outcome of the visit, the official suggested.

Al-Abadi said Riyadh wants to have a role “in providing reconstruction for areas that are liberated from Daesh, and this is welcome for us, we want to normalize the relations.”

He added that “our aim is to control and stop regional conflict in the region… We cannot move Iraq from the map, and we… are to live with our neighbors.”