JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Asharq Al Awsat and Agencies) — Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said Wednesday that the kingdom soon will open an embassy in Baghdad for the first time since Saddam Hussein’s 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, a step the U.S. has pressed the Saudis to take.
The announcement by Prince Saud al-Faisal came after a Riyadh delegation returned from Iraq, where al-Faisal said it had investigated the possibility of the embassy’s opening.
“After we received the delegation’s report, it is expected that an embassy will open soon,” al-Faisal told reporters in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah.
Last month, the Kingdom sent a delegation to Iraq to explore the possibility of reopening a Saudi embassy there. The delegation submitted a report, which has been under study.
The United States has pushed the kingdom to open an embassy in Baghdad as a sign of support for the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which Sunni Saudi Arabia has kept at arm’s length and often criticizes as biased against Iraq’s Sunni Arab minority.
An umbrella insurgent group of Iraqi Sunni Muslims — Jihad and Reform Front — has warned Riyadh against the opening, saying in a recent Web posting that the move would only comfort the Shiite-dominated government.
Aside from political considerations, Arab countries have backed off attempts to open embassies in Baghdad ever since Egypt’s top diplomat in the Iraq capital was kidnapped and killed by insurgents in 2005, soon after Cairo announced it was looking at reopening its mission there.
Two Algerian diplomats and five Russian Embassy officials were killed in the months that followed.