Doha, Asharq Al-Awsat—Relations between Iraq and its Gulf neighbors are close to becoming normalized again, Iraqi President Fuad Masoum told Asharq Al-Awsat on Wednesday, following a visit to the Qatari capital Doha.
Masoum, who was in Doha for a whistle-stop visit to meet with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, said that a “unified Gulf vision” on rapprochement with Baghdad was now “beginning to take shape.”
“What I heard in Qatar today [Wednesday] was similar to what I heard from Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz and before that from the late King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, as well as Kuwait, with whom our relationship has improved drastically since Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi visited recently,” Masoum said.
Both President Masoum and Prime Minister Abadi have made several trips to Iraq’s Gulf neighbors in recent months, in a bid to improve relations which have been frosty since the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq in 1990.
The tense relationship also continued in recent years, during the premiership of Nuri Al-Maliki, whose policies many in the Gulf saw as sidelining the country’s Sunni Arab population.
The Sunni Gulf states have also been wary of Shi’ite-majority Iraq’s relationship with Iran, as well as the influence which the Islamic Republic has over the country’s political environment.
But since the election of Abadi in September there has been a marked difference in Baghdad’s position toward its neighbors, especially the Gulf states.
Riyadh announced last month it would be reopening its embassy in Baghdad after 25 years of a freeze in diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
The Kingdom withdrew its ambassador to Baghdad and shut down its embassy in Iraq following the 1990 invasion of Kuwait. A non-resident ambassador to Baghdad was appointed in 2012, but relations between the two countries remained strained throughout Maliki’s premiership, which lasted from 2006 to 2014.
Qatar also currently does not have an embassy in Baghdad, but Masoum said his visit had “opened new doors” for relations with Doha.
A visiting delegation from Qatar headed by its foreign minister will head to Baghdad “soon” to prepare procedures for reopening the embassy, Masoum said.
Both leaders also discussed a number of other issues, including the security situation in Iraq and its region-wide effects with respect to the fight against terror groups in the region.
“Sheikh Tamim confirmed that Qatar is against terrorism in all its forms and that it is ready to stand by Iraq in its fight against this phenomenon,” Masoum told Asharq Al-Awsat.