Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia has appointed Thamer Al-Sabhan as its ambassador to Iraq—he is the first Saudi ambassador to Iraq in a quarter of a century. Sabhan was confirmed as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Baghdad in a ceremony at the royal palace in Jeddah which saw a number of Saudi ambassadors, including to Pakistan, Oman and Japan, being sworn in.
“Iraqi President Fuad Masoum welcomes Saudi Arabia’s appointment of a resident ambassador as a positive step taken at the correct time,” Iraqi presidential spokesperson Khalid Shawani told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The Iraqi presidential spokesperson thanked Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz for his support for Iraq, adding that the appointment of a new ambassador comes as a result of the King’s “personal efforts.”
“This is a message of reassurance for the Iraqi people and government, and will open new horizons for cooperation between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, particularly as both countries are facing the same threat, namely the threat of terrorism,” Shawani added.
Thamer Al-Sabhan is the first Saudi ambassador to Iraq to be appointed in 25 years. Riyadh closed its embassy in Baghdad in 1990 after former president Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Relations between Riyadh and Baghdad remained strained even after the dictator’s ouster, with relations remaining particularly tense during the era of former prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki. However, relations have recently improved following the appointment of Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi and as a result of intense diplomatic efforts in response to the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group.
Sabhan took the oath of office before King Salman in Jeddah on Wednesday, state-owned Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported. The Saudi ambassadorial oath of office reads: “In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful, I swear by Allah Almighty to be loyal to my religion, King and homeland, not to divulge a secret of the State’s secrets, maintain its interests and regulations at home and abroad, and perform my missions with honesty, integrity and loyalty.”