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Saudi-Iraqi relations: Cooperation and restored prosperity

The Saudi-Iraqi Businessmen Forum, which was launched in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, on Monday, December 7, under the auspices of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi, comes at a time when the economic and investment relations between the two countries are witnessing a kind of prosperity again after witnessing a situation from slowdown and recession.

During the forum, prospects for future cooperation between businessmen in both brotherly countries were discussed in all magazines.

The two sides also signed a loan agreement for a project to construct metal grain silos to store wheat in Diwaniyah and a loan agreement for a project for establishing Saqlawiyah Hospital in Anbar Governorate.

On this occasion, Saudi Minister of Trade Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qasabi, Chairman of the Saudi-Iraqi Coordinating Council for the Saudi side, stressed on the sidelines of the Saudi-Iraqi Businessmen Forum the Kingdom’s keenness to establish economic, trade, and investment relations with Iraq.

Prosperity regained

After years of cooling in economic relations, Saudi Arabia and Iraq have regained the pattern of prosperity in joint relations in the fields of trade, investment, and energy. That has been since October 2017, and perhaps the reason for that are the reciprocal visits by officials from both countries.

Some time ago, it was announced that the Iraqi Economic Committee would be reconfigured in the Iraqi-Saudi Coordination Council, in an attempt to give a new impetus to the joint relations between the two neighboring oil countries.

However, the Joint Coordination Committee was formed in 2017, and it held several joint meetings and concluded to begin drawing the outlines of cooperation relations between the two countries, especially in the areas of investment.

Two months after the committee was formed, specifically in December 2017, Iraq and Saudi Arabia signed 18 memoranda of understanding covering the sectors of oil and gas, refining, oil projects, petrochemicals, and drilling, during a visit by a Saudi delegation to Iraq.

The signed memoranda included many axes, such as investment, cooperation, manufacturing, partnership, the supply of raw materials, infrastructure requirements, pipes, technical and industrial services, drilling wells, development, and others, in addition to previous agreements that had included the marketing and training sectors.

Joint economic cooperation

Iraqi Finance Minister Ali Allawi paid an official visit to Saudi Arabia some time ago to discuss prospects for cooperation and investment between the two countries, during which he engaged in discussions with Saudi officials, which focused on encouraging Saudi companies and institutions, especially in the fields of energy and agriculture.

Allawi said in a press statement at the time, “We talked about the size of the support that we will get from Saudi projects that can be implemented in Iraq… and if capital is collected for these projects, we may reach $3 billion and more.”

Earlier, the Undersecretary of the Iraqi Oil Ministry, Karim Hattab, announced a tendency to grant Saudi companies investments in the field of gas in the crutch field in Anbar Governorate, in the west of the country.

Hattab added in a statement to the official INA agency during that time, “There are attempts to enter Saudi companies to invest in the crutch field,” pointing out that “the field was referred to international companies in the third gas round, but it hesitated in implementation.”

In 2019, Riyadh hosted the work of the Joint Coordination Committee with the participation of 130 Saudi companies and 42 Iraqi companies in the construction, food, energy, investment, and infrastructure sectors, in conjunction with Iraqi steps to accelerate reconstruction processes.

According to the Saudi General Authority for Statistics, the volume of trade exchange between the two countries in 2019 also reached about $1.2 billion, up from $1 billion recorded in 2018, while the volume of joint trade exchange reached about $400 million in 2017.

It is known that Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producer in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), with an average daily production of 10 million barrels per day in normal conditions, while Iraq is the second-largest producer in the organization with an average daily production of 4.6 million barrels per day.

Saudi-Iraqi summit

A Saudi-Iraqi summit was held in November via closed-circuit television, which brought together Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi.

During the summit, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman affirmed that Saudi Arabia and Iraq are determined to strengthen bilateral relations, noting that Iraq and Saudi Arabia have strong and deep ties and that they are neighbors and have the same interests. He also expressed his happiness to develop work with Iraq.

During the summit, the work of the fourth session of the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council was reviewed, while agreements and memoranda of understanding that had emerged from the previous three sessions aimed at strengthening brotherly relations between the two brotherly countries.

The two sides also stressed the importance of cooperation in the fields of energy, the exchange of experiences and coordination of positions in the oil field, within the scope of work of OPEC and full commitment to all decisions that have been agreed upon in a manner that guarantees reaching fair and appropriate oil prices for exporters and consumers alike in the global oil market.

The Republic of Iraq also renewed its invitation to Saudi companies to invest in promising opportunities in Iraq in various fields.

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