Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Saudi embassy in Baghdad will reopen in two months’ time, Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister Baha Araji told Asharq Al-Awsat on Saturday.
“The opening of the Saudi embassy will end a state of strained relations that has remained since the era of Saddam Hussein and after the US invasion,” Araji said.
“With all due respect to other countries, the opening of the Saudi embassy is not like others, in light of the weight the Kingdom carries in the Arab and Islamic worlds . . . We are therefore very keen that this relationship is a special one in all areas, and we will not allow anyone to interfere in it,” he added.
Saudi Arabia closed its embassy in Iraq and broke off relations in 1990 following the invasion of neighboring Kuwait during the presidency of Saddam Hussein.
The Kingdom appointed a non-resident ambassador to Baghdad in 2012, but relations between the two countries remained strained throughout the premiership of Nuri Al-Maliki, which lasted from 2006 to 2014.
Araji accused “hidden hands” of creating tensions in the relationship between Riyadh and Baghdad over the previous decade.
The reopening of the embassy comes amid signs of improvement in the relationship between the two countries, especially since the appointment of Haider Al-Abadi in September, with Iraq giving clear signs it is keen to patch up ties with its neighbors following the eight-year Maliki era, which saw a number of regional countries express disquiet at some of Maliki’s policies.
Iraqi politicians have made a number of official visits to the Kingdom since then, most recent of which by Iraqi President Fuad Masoum and the speaker of the Iraqi parliament, Salim Al-Jabouri, in November.
Araji met with a visiting delegation from the Saudi foreign ministry on Saturday in Baghdad to go over the final steps related to reopening the embassy. The delegation also later met with Jabouri.
In a press conference held on the same day in Baghdad, Abdulrahman Al-Shihry, deputy head of the media department at the Saudi foreign ministry, told reporters Baghdad had made “great efforts” in affording the Saudi team all it needed to ease the process.
According to Araji, the site for the new embassy will be the diplomatic quarter of Baghdad’s Khadra region.
In addition to an embassy in Baghdad, Saudi Arabia will also be opening a general consulate in Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region.