Saudi, Iraqi leaders hold landmark talks
Iraqi President Fuad Masum arrived in Saudi Arabia Tuesday for the highest-level talks between the two neighbors in years.
Masum was greeted at Riyadh Air Base by Deputy Crown Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz and several top Saudi officials before holding talks with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz in Riyadh.
The Iraqi president was accompanied by several cabinet members, including the foreign minister and the minister of interior.
Iraq and Saudi Arabia have had years of tension especially during the administration of former prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, whom the kingdom and other regional and international powers accused of pursing a sectarian agenda, marginalizing the Sunnis and empowering the Shiites.
Relations began to improve after Masum’s nomination of Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi in August to replace the controversial Maliki.
King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz sent messages of congratulations to both men saying that he hoped the nomination would help “re-establish cohesion among Iraq’s people and preserve the unity and stability of Iraq.”
Saudi Arabia has since become a key ally in the U.S.-led war against ISIS, with its warplanes taking part in the coalition air campaign against the ISIS in Syria, although not in Iraq.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil producer, shares a border of more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) with Iraq.