Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi landed in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, the start of an official tour that will include Iran, with the aim of taking talks between the two regional states to new levels.
Leading a senior Iraqi delegation, Al-Kadhimi was greeted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah. On Sunday, the delegation performed Umrah in Mecca.
Shortly after his arrival, Al Kadhimi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held talks in which they discussed number of regional and international issues of common interest and “efforts to consolidate peace and calm in the region”, a prime minister’s office statement said.
Both countries stressed Iraq’s “distinguished role in the convergence of views in the region and the efforts to push towards calm and constructive dialogue”, the statement said.
They also discussed “bilateral relations and the importance of developing them for the interest of the two countries’ brotherly people”.
Officials underlined that the visit “is not related to internal Iraqi political affairs and the talks about the formation of the new government have nothing to do with the visit”.
In a briefing to media before the visit, an Iraqi Cabinet official said the visit “comes in the context of the talks that Riyadh and Tehran recently held in Baghdad”.
These talks “represented a road map for mending relations and returning to the right course of strengthening bilateral relations” between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the official said.
Since April last year, Riyadh and Tehran have held five rounds of talks in Baghdad to mend relations that have been damaged since 2016.
After the last round of negotiations in April, Al-Kadhimi said he believed that “reconciliation is near” between Riyadh and Tehran, a further reflection of shifting political alignments across the region.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein described the talks as “positive” and said the two countries were planning to hold more.
Iran’s Nour News, said the “latest positive meeting has raised hopes for the two countries to take steps towards the resumption of ties”.
It also published a photo of two Iranian and Saudi officials standing alongside Al-Kadhimi.
The last round came after a brief interruption in March, after Saudi Arabia had executed 81 men. Tehran condemned the executions that activists said included 41 Shiite Muslims.
The main focus of the talks between Tehran and Riyadh has been Yemen, where a coalition led by Saudi Arabia is launching since 2015 a deadly campaign The conflict has escalated in recent months, with the Houthis stepping up drone and missile retaliatory attacks on the kingdom.