Joining hands to face challenges


Saudi Gazette report

RIYADH — Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi jointly inaugurated the first meeting of the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council in the presence of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and several high ranking Saudi and Iraqi officials at Al-Yamamah Palace here on Sunday.

Addressing the meeting, King Salman emphasized the need for complete coordination among the Kingdom, US and Iraq to counter the serious challenges facing the region.

“In our region, we face serious challenges of extremism, terrorism and attempts to destabilize our countries, which require us to coordinate fully to confront these challenges,” he said.

Congratulating Iraq on its victory in crushing terrorism, the King pledged full support to the unity and stability of Iraq.

“We congratulate our brothers in Iraq on the achievements made in eradicating and defeating terrorism. We also affirm our support and backing for Iraq’s unity and stability, hoping that internal differences would be addressed through dialogue and within the framework of the Iraqi constitution.”

Underlining the significance of the Coordination Council in strengthening bilateral ties, the King said: “Our presence today reflects the interest of all of us in this Council and our hopes for developing and strengthening relations between our peoples and our countries in all fields.

“The great potential of our two countries presents us with a historic opportunity to build an effective partnership to achieve our common aspirations.”

Referring to the ties with Iraq, the King noted: “What binds us to brotherly Iraq is not just neighborliness and common interests, but bonds of brotherhood, blood, history and a common destiny. We all look forward to the Council›s meetings contributing to expanding bilateral ties to broader horizons. The Council’s work will always be under the personal follow-up of us and the prime Minister (of Iraq),” the King added.

In his speech, Abadi emphasized that the region can no longer bear further division or the continuation of conflicts.

“It is essential to end armed conflicts and stop the policies of interfering in the affairs of others for the particular interest of this country or that,” he said while calling for heralding a new phase of comprehensive cooperation and economic integration.

Abadi reiterated the willingness of Iraqi people to unify their efforts with that of their brothers to begin “a new era of peace, stability and development, as well as to the establishment of a network of interests serving our peoples, deepening our relations and opening the doors of opportunities for our youth.”

Abadi said: “We are serious about cooperation and are sincere in lending our support and we will make every step that will consolidate security, stability, prosperity and development. We are optimistic about the Coordination Council and what we would achieve for our people.”

Abadi highlighted the development witnessed in the relations between the Kingdom and Iraq.

Tillerson, who participated in the inaugural meeting of the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council, told the leaders that the event highlighted the improving ties that showed “the great potential” for further cooperation.

He noted the August reopening of a major border crossing and the resumption of direct flights between Riyadh and Baghdad.

“Both represent the beginning of what we hope will be a series of even more tangible actions to improve relations and strengthen cooperation on a host of issues,” he said.

“Your growing relationship between the Kingdom and Iraq is vital to bolstering our collective security and prosperity and we take great interest in it.”

The United States is “grateful for this progress and urge you to expand this vital relationship for the stability of the region,” Tillerson said.

“The United States stands ready to support continued cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Iraq and we congratulate you.”

The council, which was approved by the Saudi Cabinet in August, aims to raise the level of strategic, investment and cultural relations between the two countries, opening a new window for Iraq to revive its economy.

King Salman has repeatedly stressed during the past year the significance of supporting Iraq, its security and stability, prompting the re-opening of the new Arar border crossing after it was closed for more than 27 years.

Last week, Iraq and Saudi Arabia also opened air links when Saudi budget carrier flynas making the first commercial flight from Riyadh to Baghdad since 1990.

Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Baghdad in 2015 after a quarter century. The first visit by a Saudi foreign minister to Baghdad came in February.