ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq and Saudi Arabia on Thursday discussed trade ties and agreed to reopen, no later than October, a border crossing between the two countries that has been closed for nearly three decades.
Commercial activity has been suspended at the Arar border crossing since the border's closure in 1990 due to a complete breakdown in diplomatic relations following Baghdad's brazen invasion of Kuwait. Since then, it has been accessible only to those traveling on religious pilgrimages.
The resumption of formal relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq dates back to 2015 when Riyadh reopened its embassy in Baghdad, which at the time had been shuttered for 25 years.
Before Thursday's announcement, the head of Iraq's Border Crossings Commission, Kadhem al-Aqabi, met with Saudi Arabian Trade and Investment Minister Majid al-Qassabi to discuss "the provision of all necessary requirements to open the Arar border crossing by October," an official statement read.
It added that those participating stressed "the necessity of automating customs procedures" and of working to implement a "one-stop trade window."
Qassabi expressed "the readiness of the Kingdom to provide technical and material support" and "bear all the material costs" necessary for the aforementioned trade window. The Saudi official also affirmed that his country was willing to "establish the trade exchange arena provided that this square is established in accordance with international standards."
Aqabi voiced "Iraq's desire to be the arena of trade exchange" to "provide job opportunities for the people of Karbala and Anbar provinces."
These steps follow a decision by the Saudi Arabian cabinet two years ago to set up a joint trade committee with its eastern neighbor.
Iran, Saudia Arabi's archrival, is also in talks to strengthen trade ties with Iraq, with a delegation led by President Hassan Rouhani recently signing multiple preliminary deals, including for a joint industrial zone and energy cooperation.
Editing by John J. Catherine