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Iraqi PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi in Iran after MBS visit

The Iraqi leader is trying to facilitate the re-establishment of ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Tehran, Iran – Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi arrived in Tehran on Sunday at the head of a high-level delegation to hold talks with Iranian officials following a visit to Saudi Arabia.

Iranian state media showed al-Kadhimi, who was also accompanied by his Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein and others, receiving a formal welcome by President Ebrahim Raisi at the Saadabad Palace in the capital.

The visit comes after the Iraqi leader was personally received by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a short trip to Jeddah on Saturday night.

Al-Kadhimi’s office said he and the crown prince discussed “efforts to push towards calm and constructive dialogue” and issues “that would contribute to supporting and strengthening regional security and stability” in addition to bilateral relations.

The Iraqi prime minister’s visit is happening in line with his previous efforts to facilitate conversation between regional foes Tehran and Riyadh, which support opposing sides in Yemen’s war of over seven years.

During a press conference following their talks, Raisi and al-Kadhimi did not specifically mention Saudi Arabia, but talked about improving relations across the region.

“Normalising relations with the Zionist regime and the presence of foreigners will not be good for the region and will not resolve any problems,” Raisi said in reference to Israel, standing next to al-Kadhimi.

Both officials said they agreed on the fact that continuing the war in Yemen is not the way forward, and only dialogue can resolve the fighting, which has caused a humanitarian crisis.

In this vein, they renewed their backing for the UN-negotiated truce in Yemen.

Both leaders also hailed their two countries’ bilateral relations and said some of the talks between their delegations were dedicated to improving them. Discussions were focused on removing barriers on financial transactions, facilitating religious pilgrimages, and work on a railroad that connects Shalamcheh in Iran and Basra in Iraq, they said.

Al-Kadhimi met with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian later on Monday, and held discussions on Saudi Arabia, according to the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

Amirabdollahian reportedly thanked the Iraqi Prime Minister for his mediation efforts, saying, “the Islamic Republic of Iran wishes nothing but good for the region and supports the reopening of embassies in the capitals of both countries”.

Direct negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, hosted by Baghdad, commenced in April 2021.

They have so far held five rounds of talks but have yet to come to terms on how to re-establish formal diplomatic ties that were cut off in 2016. At the time, protesters stormed Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran after Saudia Arabia, which is predominantly Sunni, executed a renowned Shia religious leader.

Following the fifth round of talks, held in April, an outlet close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, which has taken point in the negotiations, said there is a chance the two countries could soon organise a meeting of their foreign ministers.

So far, the only actionable outcome of the talks appears to have been the reopening of Iran’s representative office at the Jeddah-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

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