RIYADH: Iraq’s prime minister met with Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in the kingdom Sunday as part of Baghdad’s efforts to mediate between Riyadh and Tehran.
Mustafa al-Kadhemi, who headed to Saudi Arabia on Saturday, is expected to then visit Iran, its regional rival with which Riyadh has had no diplomatic ties since 2016.
Prince Mohammed and Kadhemi addressed “bilateral relations and opportunities for joint cooperation”, reported the official Saudi Press Agency.
“They exchanged points of view on a number of issues that would contribute to supporting and strengthening regional security and stability,“ it added.
Iraq has over the past year hosted five rounds of talks between the two regional rivals, with the last session held in April.
Kadhemi said at the time he believed that “reconciliation is near” between Riyadh and Tehran, a further reflection of shifting political alignments across the region.
On Saturday an Iraqi cabinet source said that Kadhemi’s trip to Saudi Arabia and Iran “comes in the context of talks that Riyadh and Tehran recently held in Baghdad”.
The source said those talks “represented a road map for mending relations and returning to the right course of strengthening bilateral relations” between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which support rival sides in conflict zones around the region.
Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shiite-majority Iran have had no diplomatic ties for six years, since Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran after the kingdom executed Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.
Riyadh responded by cutting relations with Tehran.
In early March, Prince Mohammed said his country and Iran were “neighbours forever”, and that it was “better for both of us to work it out and to look for ways in which we can coexist”.
After his arrival in the kingdom, Kadhemi performed the minor pilgrimage, known as umra, in the holy city of Mecca, according to pictures released by his office.-AFP