In November 2020, Iraq and Saudi Arabia reopened the Arar border for trade after it had been closed for decades. The border had been closed since 1990 after the two countries cut ties when Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s leader at the time, invaded Kuwait. The crossing remained closed, reflecting the long-lasting unease. However, relations between the two sides have recently started to improve, as part of Riyadh’s efforts to stem the growing regional influence of Iran with Iraq also trying to gain economic benefits from maintaining closer ties.
The initial move towards reconciliation began five years ago when Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Baghdad in 25 years. Improving relations with Saudi Arabia was a key policy of Mustafa al-Kadhimi, the Prime Minister of Iraq, when he took office last May. In July 2020, the two countries finally signed investment agreements on sports and energy.
According to Prime Minister al-Kadhimi, “we have many memoranda of understanding signed with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to serve our country.”
“The Saudi-Iraq relations have been severed for about 27 years, and now we celebrate an accomplishment that suits the Saudi-Iraqi relations...We welcome all Iraqi products to be exported to Saudi and through this border, there will be an exchange of visits between the two countries...” Saudi Ambassador Abdulaziz Alshamri also stated.
The reopening of the Arar border represents a key step towards firm relations and deepening Iraq-Saudi economic cooperation. It will most likely be beneficial for both sides and greatly help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) when doing business in a restriction-filled country like Iraq. Because there may still be acts of proxy wars and sectarian violence, it is even more imperative that the two countries work together to get rid of such dirty tactics. Officials in Iraq are also hoping the reopening will bolster trade activities and provide a much-needed boost to their economy.
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