Riyadh Re-Opens Iraqi Embassy After 17 Years



Speaking to reporters, the minister emphasized the need for exchange of wanted persons in both countries. “Some of the persons wanted by Iraq have been found in the Kingdom while some others wanted by Saudi Arabia have been arrested in Iraq,” he said.



Zebari also said that there are “Saudi citizens who have been brainwashed” operating with militants in Iraq. He did not provide an estimate of the number of Saudis the Iraqi government believes are operating in Iraq. He said the two countries must coordinate better to root out expatriate insurgents in Iraq and potential terrorists in the Kingdom.



“Due to lack of cooperation, and lack of coordination, the two countries have not been able to help one another in this matter,” he said, adding that there was greater need for intelligence sharing.



“We call on the Kingdom to open an embassy or consulate in Iraq,” he said, noting that there are currently 50 diplomatic missions in Baghdad.



He said the reopening of the embassy was based on an initiative from the Iraqi government to restore full diplomatic relations with Arab and Islamic countries with Saudi Arabia being the first. The Iraqi Embassy was closed down in February 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait, sparking the first Gulf War.



Zebari said his government has suggested holding a regional summit in Baghdad in March before the scheduled Arab League meeting in Riyadh. The invitation was extended to foreign ministers of neighboring Arab countries, as well as the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.



“Our message has all along been that Iraq’s neighbors have a responsibility to help stabilize the situation and to refrain from intervening in our internal affairs,” he said. He noted that in the past there were interventions from specific neighboring countries, adding that his country has been going ahead with discussions with Iranian and Syrian officials on that front. He also said that he had discussed this matter with Saudi officials yesterday.



He said his government was “holding Iran to its commitment” regarding its noninterference in Iraqi internal affairs but that results would be known only over time.


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