Media reports say Saudi Arabia has begun new efforts to strengthen ties with Iraq amid its diplomatic tensions with Qatar over what it calls Doha’s support for terrorism.
According to a report by the Arabic website Iraq Today, informed sources say Riyadh has expressed its readiness to expand political and economic ties with Baghdad over the past few weeks.
The report also says that just ahead of the Monday’s visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to Saudi Arabia, Riyadh has introduced four diplomats to Baghdad and asked the Iraqi government to pick up one of them as Saudi ambassador to Iraq.
The website noted that introducing a new ambassador to Iraq is part of Saudi Arabia’s larger plan to improve ties with Baghdad.
The sources also said Riyadh has taken a long step by introducing four diplomats to Iraqi government to choose one of them to replace Thamer al-Sabhan, the controversial former Saudi Arabian ambassador to Baghdad.
“The official visit of Iraqi prime minister to Saudi Arabia is just the beginning of a new phase in the two sides’ relations and now with upgrading ties to ambassador level, strengthening of mutual relations will gain momentum,” the sources added.
Thamer al-Sabhan was under fire for his extremist stances towards Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units as well as his statements about Iraq’s internal affairs. He had claimed that sectarianism and tribalism were the driving force behind the Iraqi government’s arming of volunteer forces known as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).
Iraqi Foreign Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari had officially lodged two complaints against Sabhan. With the growing tensions inside Iraq triggered by Sabhan, Saudi Arabia called him back. He is now serving as the Minister of State for the Persian-Gulf Affairs. Saudi Arabia has no ambassador in Iraq at present.
Abadi arrived in the Saudi capital on Monday. Reports say during the visit, Abadi will discuss the current diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. His office, however, rejected the reports saying he is not going to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The visit of Abadi to Saudi Arabia is being made amid an unprecedented diplomatic tension in the region since early 90s.
Nearly two weeks ago, Saudi Arabia and a number of other Arab countries including the United Arabic Emirate, Bahrain and Egypt cut their diplomatic ties with Qatar and recalled their ambassadors from Doha. They also repelled Qatar’s ambassadors.
Saudi Arabia also called on Turkey and Pakistan to follow its footsteps and cut their ties with Qatar. Ankara and Islamabad, however, rejected the call.
Abadi is set to visit Kuwait and Iran as well after Saudi Arabia.
In a statement published on Saturday, the Iraqi prime minister said pursuing national interest is the backbone of his government’s foreign policy.
“To this end, Iraqi government avoids creating tensions and divisions on the one hand and attracts more regional friends on the other,” the statement read.
It also added that Baghdad would not allow its territory to turn into a scene of proxy wars against any regional state, particularly Iran.
Elsewhere in the statement, Abadi also stressed that Iraq is the land of peace instead of war and should remain so in the future.
The Iraqi prime minister noted that his regional tour had been planned before the diplomatic crisis in the region and said the tour was aimed at establishing good-faith relations with regional states and creating a unified front against terrorism.