Iraq – Saudi Arabia border crossing reopens after 30 years
On Wednesday, Iraq and Saudi Arabia re-opened the Arar border crossing for trade for the first time in 30 years, according to the Iraqi Border Ports authority statement. High officials, including the Iraqi Minister of Interiors and the Saudi ambassador to Iraq, attended the Arar opening ceremony, where a line of cargo vehicles was attending since Wednesday morning, formally restarting the trade between the two countries.
According to the statement, a mission from Riyadh was to open the Saudi Arabian side of the border passage, which will be open to both goods and people. Arar remained closed since 1990 after the two countries cut ties following former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s incursion in Kuwait.
Relations outlasted rocky since the 1990s and did not advance after Saddam’s toppling in the 2003 US-led aggression, as Riyadh viewed the new Shia-dominated political group with mistrust due to their links with its regional enemy Iran.A thaw started in 2017 when then Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir visited Baghdad – the first such mission in decades – followed by a Riyadh tour by then-Iraqi premier Haider al-Abadi.
As “Saudi Gazzette” reported, the two countries signed an agreement to reopen the border crossing by the decision of the 4th session of the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council held on Nov. 10. During the virtual session of the council meeting, Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi adopted the memorable resolution.
The first business flights returned between the two countries, and leaders began discussing Arar, with high-profile US envoy Brett McGurk even visiting the passage in 2017 to promote its reopening.But those projects were regularly stopped, with Arar only free on few moments to allow Iraqi religious travelers on their trail to Mecca for the holy Hajj.
The current Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi is supposed to have a close association with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.In May 2020, al-Kadhimi was to fly to Saudi Arabia on his first foreign journey as head of the Government, but the appointment was annulled at the last minute as the Saudi King Salman was hospitalized.He has yet to make the voyage, although Iraqi ministers have traveled to Riyadh to meet their analogues. A top-level Saudi committee also went to Baghdad in early November.
Speaking during the ceremony, Emir Prince Faisal emphasized that the opening of the border passage would restore the relations between the two nations and would usher in a new era assisting the common interests of the brotherly Iraqi and Saudi people. The emir looked forward to the port being a tributary of economic cooperation between the two countries. He praised the efforts of the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council in inaugurating great horizons for collaboration.