BAGHDAD (Dispatches) – Iraq and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday reopened the Arar border crossing in the desert between the two countries after three decades of closure.
A statement by the Iraqi Border Port Commission said that an Iraqi delegation of high-ranking officials, headed by the Minister of Interior Othman al-Ghanimi, and a Saudi delegation attended the reopening ceremony at the border crossing point.
On Nov. 10, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud held a video conference to review the outcome of the fourth session of the Iraqi-Saudi Coordination Council, which includes eight committees of various fields.
Arar had remained closed since 1990 after the two countries severed ties following former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.
Ties remained rocky since the 1990s and did not improve after Saddam’s toppling in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, as Riyadh looked at the new political class with suspicion.
A thaw began in 2017 when then Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir travelled to Baghdad – the first such visit in decades – followed by a Riyadh trip by then-Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
The first commercial flights resumed between the two countries and officials began discussing Arar, with high-profile U.S. diplomat Brett McGurk even visiting the crossing in 2017 to support its reopening.
But those plans were repeatedly delayed, with Arar only open on rare occasions to allow Iraqi religious pilgrims on their way to Mecca for Hajj.
Ahead of Arar’s opening, a group identifying itself as Ashab al-Kahf, published a statement announcing its "rejection of the Saudi project in Iraq”.
"The intelligence cadres of the Islamic Resistance are following all the details of the Saudi enemy’s activities on the Iraqi border,” it warned.
Iraq is the second-largest producer in the OPEC oil organization, outranked only by Saudi Arabia.
Its oil, gas and electricity infrastructure is severely outdated and inefficient but low oil prices this year have stymied efforts to revamp it.