BAGHDAD: There are clear signs that relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq have improved significantly since a year ago.
Saudi Energy Minister Khaled Al-Falih and Iraq’s Oil Minister Jabar Ali Al-Luaibi on Tuesday signed 18 memorandums of understanding covering the oil and gas sectors, the Iraqi Oil Ministry said in a statement.
In addition, Saudi Arabia has not questioned the relationship between Iraq and Iran in exchange for activation of the Iraqi-Saudi oil pipeline and increased trade and economic exchanges between Baghdad and Riyadh, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi said.
“Frankly, trade and economic exchanges (between Riyadh and Baghdad) are not at the expense of anyone,” he told reporters at his weekly news conference on Tuesday. “Saudis have frankly said that the relationship between Iran and Iraq is not considered a threat for them.
“(Relating to) the Iraqi oil pipeline, we left it to the (Iraqi) Ministry of Oil because it was abandoned for a long time,” Abadi said.
The pipeline, which extends from the oil-hub city of Basra and passes through Saudi Arabia before it reaches Yanbu on the Red Sea, was blocked in 1991 when Iraq invaded Kuwait.
Abadi said Iraq has been looking to export its oil through the Red Sea but the long distance and high expenses of reviving this pipeline led to the postponement of the project.
The prime minister also announced a change in the date of the national parliamentary elections from May 15 to May 12 next year.
“This (the old) date marks the first of Ramadan … (so) the Cabinet has agreed to hold the elections on May 12,” he said.
Abadi expressed willingness to negotiate with the Kurdistan Regional Government, but not before handing control of the airports and border crossings to the federal authorities.
“Our demand is clear. Airports and crossings are exclusively (a part of the) federal authority,” he said. “The brothers in the region have to agree on this (deliver them to the federal authorities).
“Basically I am ready for dialogue, but the dialogue must be on the correct basis until we get to the result. I welcome any dialogue.”
Abadi also denied that any additional US troops were deployed in Kirkuk or areas of western Iraq, and said none were deployed outside the camp where Iraqi troops are trained.
He called for a stand against US intentions to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“Iraq firmly stands against this trend. We call on all good people, Arabic and Islamic and all the free people in the world, to reject this trend,” Abadi said.