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Iraq, Saudi Arabia agree to reopen border crossing closed for almost 30 years

Iraq and Saudi Arabia have said a border crossing originally closed in 1991 will be reopened within seven days, following a virtual meeting between Baghdad and Riyadh.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman spoke in a virtual meeting on Tuesday, agreeing to reopen the Arar border crossing – connecting Anbar province with Saudi Arabia – within the next week.

“The parties agreed on the opening of the Arar border crossing between both countries within 7 days from the meeting,” read a joint statement shared by Iraqi state media.

The crossing has been closed since 1991 after relations between the two states deteriorated following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Since then, it has only opened once a year to allow Iraqi pilgrims to enter for Hajj.

Officials from both countries met in September 2019 and hoped to open the crossing later that year, boosting employment and trade prospects for both sides.

In September of this year, it was reported that the crossing would open within 20 days.

Both sides also agreed to “constant communication and collaboration in the field of oil and in the work scope of Organization for Oil Exporting Countries (OPEC) Plus,” according to the Tuesday statement.

“This will be an attempt at attaining a reasonable price for oil globally,” it added.

OPEC coordinates oil production benchmarks for various oil-producing countries across the world, and controls more than half of the world’s oil reserves. OPEC+ also includes non-member countries that export crude oil.

Saudi Arabia and Russia announced cuts in oil production earlier this year to balance a drop in demand as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Iraq has not abided by the agreement.

The meeting came after Iraqi officials spoke with the Iraqi-Saudi Coordination Council on Sunday.

The council was established in October 2017 with the aim of strengthening relations between the two countries.

In the meeting, the PM emphasized on strong cooperation between the two countries and stated that “investment opportunities are available to Saudi companies.”

Iraq and Saudi have enjoyed closer ties in recent years, as Saudi Arabia looks to offset Iranian influence in the region. Rapprochement between the two began in 2015, when Saudi Arabia reopened their Baghdad embassy after 25 years of closure.

Kadhimi was scheduled to visit Riyadh in July, his first foreign trip as PM, which was postponed after Saudi’s King Salman was hospitalized.

A Saudi delegation visited Baghdad in August, with Kadhimi describing Riyadh as a “true partner” for Iraq.

Former Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi visited Saudi Arabia in 2019, when the two countries signed 13 deals in the fields of political consultation, investment promotion and protection, agriculture, energy, electricity, and higher education.

The kingdom announced in mid-October it would increase their investments in Iraq by 10 billion Saudi riyals ($2.6 billion USD), according to Saudi state media.

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