Saudi king hosts Iraq's new president

AFP , Sunday 18 Nov 2018

Barham Salih
Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud meets with Iraq's President Barham Salih during his visit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 18, 2018. The Presidency of the Republic of Iraq Office REUTERS

Saudi King Salman welcomed Iraq's new President Barham Saleh Sunday on his first official visit to the kingdom, amid a warming of ties between the Arab neighbours after years of strain.

The king hosted a lunch and "discussed regional developments" with Saleh, the official Saudi Press Agency said, after the Iraqi leader's arrival in Riyadh following a visit to Iran.

Saleh, a 58-year-old moderate Kurd elected to the largely ceremonial role last month, was on an overnight visit at the invitation of the Saudi monarch, an Iraqi official said.

Separately, Iraq's Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali al-Hakim, who is part of Saleh's delegation, held talks in Riyadh with his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir, officials said.

Ties between Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shia-majority Iraq have been looking up in recent months, after years of tense relations.

After former dictator Saddam Hussein's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Riyadh severed relations with Baghdad and closed its border posts with its northern neighbour.

But a flurry of visits in recent months between the two countries has indicated a thawing of ties.

In October 2017, Saudi budget airline flynas made the first commercial flight from Riyadh to Baghdad in 27 years.

Iraq is seeking economic benefits from closer ties with the wealthy kingdom as it looks to rebuild after the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) group.

Riyadh is keen to develop relations with Baghdad to counter the influence of regional rival Iran in Iraq.

Saleh made his first official visit to Tehran on Saturday, where he met his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani in a bid to boost bilateral trade.  

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