Saudi Arabia has named an ambassador to Iraq to re-establish full diplomatic ties for the first time since Saddam Hussein invaded neighboring Kuwait, Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said on Tuesday.
“For the first time since 1990, the Saudis have named an ambassador to Iraq,” Zebari said, Zebari told Reuters, without elaborating.
Saudi Foreign Ministry spokesman Osama Nugali said: “We nominated our ambassador in Jordan as ambassador for Iraq as well, but he will not be residing in Iraq.”
A successful summit in Baghdad would help restore Iraq’s place in the Arab world and perhaps contribute to allaying Gulf states’ concerns about Iran’s influence in post-war Iraq.
Saudi Arabia was alarmed when its U.S. ally’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 brought Iranian-backed Shi'ite factions to power in elections after the overthrow of Saddam's Sunni-based rule.
Iraq also has strong ties to Syria, Iran’s only Arab ally, which the Arab League has suspended over President Bashar al-Assad’s violent suppression of an 11-month-old uprising.
Saudi officials had said they feared the American military withdrawal would allow Iran to increase its influence in Iraq.
The announcement came as the Middle East faces a deepening split between Shiite and Sunni Muslim powers over the crisis in Syria and Western pressure on Iran.