Saudi embassy in Baghdad to open after Eid

Manama: Saudi Arabia will open its embassy in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and its consulate in Arbil after Eid Al Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, expected on September 23. Diplomatic sources said that the Iraqi authorities have now completed the visas for the diplomats who will be assigned to the two diplomatic missions, Saudi daily Al Sharq Al Awsat reported on Sunday. According to the sources, the staff in both missions will be over 40 and they will serve in the various diplomatic and security departments. “There is positive interest in opening the Saudi embassy in Baghdad urgently,” the sources that the London-based daily did not name, said. “The political and social elite in Iraq are looking forward to the opening of the embassy after a diplomatic hiatus of 25 years.” The consulate in the northern part of the country will start its operations after the embassy now that its diplomatic and security staff have been readied for their missions. The decision to open the embassy and the consulate was taken following a report by a technical Saudi delegation assigned to scout for a location for its embassy in the Iraqi capital and to look into the arrangements in Iraq.
The report included several options, particularly that Baghdad offered several alternatives for the premises of the diplomatic mission.

The new ambassador, Thamer Bin Sabhan Al Sabhan, will take over 25 years after the last Saudi envoy residing in the Iraqi capital left the country following the invasion of Kuwait by the Iraqi army in August 1990.

The new embassy building will most likely be inside the Green Zone, the fortified area that contains a number of Iraqi ministries and the US and British embassies.

The decision by Saudi Arabia to dispatch the scouting team was taken following a flurry of talks between the Saudis and the Iraqis.

Diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq were severed in 1990 after Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait.

In November last year, Saudi Arabia’s then Foreign Minister the late Prince Saud Al Faisal, following a visit by Iraqi President Fouad Maasoom, told the media in Riyadh that the Saudi embassy in Baghdad would reopen “sooner than you imagine” and that he was keen on making a visit to Iraq.

The last Saudi ambassador to serve in Iraq was Tarad Abdullah Al Hussain Al Harithi who served from 1983 until 1990.

In 2012, Saudi Arabia named its first ambassador to Iraq in more than two decades, but said that he would not reside in Baghdad.

Relations between the two countries were strained in 2003 following the emergence of an Iraqi government with close ties to Iran and Iranian-supported political movements inside Iraq.

The Green Zone, the common name for the international neighbourhood in Baghdad, is about 10 square kilometres.

Created by the forces that invaded Iraq in 2003, it is one of the most heavily guarded military sites in Iraq and includes the headquarters of the Iraqi government and army, the US and several other embassies and foreign organisations.

According to Iraqi daily Al Zaman, the Green Zone is well protected by thousands of troops with armoured vehicles and it has never had any security breaches.

Iraqis in general are not allowed to enter the Green Zone, while guests enter through private gates after getting official approval. All guests are thoroughly searched and photographed.

Al Zaman said the area is almost devoid of children as officials living there send their children to study in Arbil, Amman, Beirut or other Arab cities.