Iraq-Saudi border crossing reopens after 30 years

The Arar crossing has remained closed since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

al-monitor An Iraqi woman stands at passport control as she waits to have her passport stamped at the Arar southern Iraqi border crossing with Saudi Arabia on Nov. 11, 2009, ahead of the hajj pilgrimage. Photo by MOHAMMED SAWAF/AFP via Getty Images.

Nov 18, 2020

The Arar border crossing linking Iraq and Saudi Arabia has reopened for trade after a 30-year closure, Iraq's border authority said Wednesday.

The Saudi-Iraqi border crossing was closed in the 1990s after Saudi Arabia severed ties following Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's invasion of neighboring Kuwait. The crossing has remained closed, with exceptions made for Iraqis to cross to Mecca for the annual hajj pilgrimage. 

On Wednesday, the Saudi ambassador to Iraq joined Iraqi and Saudi officials at a ribbon cutting for the crossing’s reopening, which marks the latest effort to deepen economic cooperation between the two countries. During the summer, Saudi Arabia and Iraq signed a number of investment agreements on energy and sports, as well as a memorandum of understanding on coronavirus cooperation. 

Relations between largely Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and majority Shiite Iraq have warmed in recent years, beginning with the reopening of the Saudi Embassy in Baghdad in 2015 and a rare visit by a Saudi foreign minister to Baghdad in 2017. That same year, US special envoy Brett McGurk paid a visit to the Arar crossing in a show of support for its reopening. 

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has sought stronger ties with Saudi Arabia, which in turn seeks to lure Baghdad away from Riyadh's regional rival, Iran. Kadhimi planned to make Saudi Arabia his first foreign trip as premier, but the visit was scrapped after Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud was hospitalized in July. 

Last week, a high-level Saudi delegation visited Baghdad for talks aimed at bolstering cooperation in energy, agriculture, health and other areas. 

This story contains reporting from AFP.