Iraqi PM to visit Saudi Arabia and Iran for new dialogue

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BAGHDAD — Iraq’s interim prime minister is expected to fly to Saudi Arabia, followed by Iran, carrying a new initiative aimed at reviving talks between the two regional sworn enemies, an official said on Saturday.

The official said Mustafa al-Kadhimi was due to travel to Riyadh later in the day for meetings with Saudi officials. He will then travel to Tehran on Sunday.

Al-Kadhimi’s visit is aimed at opening new avenues that would reactivate the Baghdad-mediated dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran, according to the official, who is familiar with the Iran-Saudi Arabia dialogue path. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information to the press.

Talks aimed at defusing years-long tensions between regional foes began quietly in the Iraqi capital in 2021 as Saudi Arabia sought a way to end its disastrous war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen . The conflict has spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters and rained rebel drone bombs and missiles on Saudi airports and oil facilities.

A fifth and final round of talks took place in Baghdad in April before being suspended again due to rising tensions in the Middle East.

Iran, the world’s largest Shia Muslim country, and Sunni power Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties in 2016 after Saudi Arabia executed prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr. Angry Iranians protesting the execution stormed two Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran, fueling years of animosity between the nations.

Iraq borders both Iran and Saudi Arabia and is often caught in the middle of the two nations’ proxy wars.

Al-Kadhimi stressed that he wants balanced relations with the two neighbors. Improving relations with Saudi Arabia was a key policy of his administration when he took office in May 2020.

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