Saudi Arabia and Iraq have announced they would soon reopen a major border crossing for trade after some 27 years of closure.
The governor of Iraq’s southwestern province of Anbar, Sohaib al-Rawi, along with Saudi officials, toured the Arar border crossing on Monday, saying its reopening would be a “significant move” to boost ties between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, two neighbors that have had strained ties since the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
“This is a great start for further future cooperation between Iraq and Saudi Arabia,” said Rawi, adding that Iraqi government had deployed troops to protect the desert route leading to Arar.
Anbar province has been rocked by years of militancy by Daesh Takfiri group. The desert province has been mostly cleared of militants but sporadic attacks remain and the increasing traffic to Arar border crossing after its reopening could make it a major target of attacks.
The announcement on border reopening was made while authorities also spoke with Iraqi religious pilgrims, who have used Arar over the past 27 years during the Hajj season.
The reopening, which comes after a decision on Monday by Saudi cabinet to establish a joint trade commission with Iraq, is another sign of Riyadh’s continued attempts to improve its ties with Baghdad. The rapprochement began in 2015 when Saudis reopened their embassy in Baghdad after 25 years. Ties tumbled after Saudi Arabia’s first ambassador to Iraq was forced to leave the country over allegations of interference. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir visited Baghdad in February to name another ambassador while the two neighbors announced in June that they would set up a coordination council to upgrade ties.