Iraq-Saudi border crossing to reopen after nearly 30 years

An Iraq-Saudi Arabia border crossing is set to reopen after nearly three decades of closure, Iraq’s border crossing department announced on Thursday.

A meeting held between Iraqi and Saudi border authorities at the Arar crossing set October 15 as a test period for its reopening, a department statement said.

Anbar provincial council member Amira Odaie spoke to Rudaw on Thursday about the meeting.

“Early on Thursday morning, Iraq’s border crossing department met with their Saudi Arabian counterparts to discuss the opening of Arar crossing border, in order to boost trades and tourism between the two countries,” Odaie said.

Opening the Arar crossing will also provide job opportunities to Anbar province’s young people currently suffering from high rates of unemployment, she added.

Arar crossing closed back in 1991, when relations between the two countries deteriorated after then-president Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Iraq-Saudi relations were further damaged under former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s tenure.

Rapprochement between the two began in 2015, when Saudi Arabia reopened their Baghdad embassy after 25 years of closure.

A Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council was established in October 2017 with the aim of strengthening relations between the two countries.

Vying for influence in the country over regional rival Iran, Saudi Arabia opened a consulate in Baghdad in April 2019 after a visit from a 100-person Saudi delegation, including nine ministers. Riyadh pledged $1.5 billion in loans to Iraq during the trip.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi visited Saudi Arabia later that month, when the two countries signed 13 deals in the fields of political consultation, investment promotion and protection, agriculture, energy, electricity, and higher education.

The Arar border crossing currently opens once a year, to allow Iraqi pilgrims to enter Saudi Arabia to perform the Islamic rite of Hajj.