(MENAFN - Arab News) In a major move to boost political and diplomatic relations with Iraq, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has appointed veteran diplomat Fahd Abdul Mohsen Al-Zaid as the first Saudi ambassador to Iraq after a gap of about 16 years, it was confirmed on Tuesday.
Al-Zaid, who is currently serving as the Kingdom's Ambassador to Jordan, will be a non-resident ambassador flying regularly from Amman to Baghdad to discharge his diplomatic duties.
"Al-Zaid is a career diplomat, who has been serving as ambassador to Jordan for the last three years," said Alauddin Al-Askary, deputy foreign minister for diplomatic affairs, in Riyadh on Tuesday. Al-Askary pointed out that this is an important appointment that demonstrates the importance Riyadh attaches to its relationship with Iraq. The appointment comes just a few weeks after Saudi Arabia and Iraq decided to put on hold the execution of Saudi and Iraqi prisoners.
Al-Askary pointed out that there is a functioning Iraqi Embassy in Riyadh headed by a full-fledged ambassador. On the question of issues that need to be resolved between Riyadh and Baghdad on a priority basis, another official said that there are a few other bilateral and regional issues of common concerns to be discussed and resolved by the two sides. He said Riyadh is keen on strengthening its ties with Iraq, a country keen to approve the nomination of the non-resident Saudi ambassador immediately.
"The Kingdom will have an ambassador to Iraq for the first time since 1990," said the official. Saudi Arabia made a political decision to reopen its embassy in Baghdad many months ago but needed to resolve technical, administrative and security issues, he added. "Having no embassy in Iraq doesn't mean that we don't have contact with our Iraqi brothers," he added. He pointed out that Riyadh's policy toward Baghdad over the next several years will probably be dominated by four key concerns about the future of Iraq, including domestic stability, foreign meddling, oil production policy, and Iraq's political evolution.
Of these, far and away the most important to Riyadh is stability. For Saudi Arabia, the question of the fate of prisoners is also important. Saudi Arabia and Iraq agreed last month to put on hold the execution of prisoners on death row in the two countries for at least two months until a final agreement to swap prisoners is reached. There are 113 Saudi prisoners in Iraq including six on death row who have been charged with the crimes of illegally entering the country and carrying out terrorist operations there. There are 138 Iraqi prisoners in the Kingdom of whom 11 were sentenced to death after they were found guilty of carrying out terrorist operations in the country.
Meanwhile, Chairman of the National Society for Human Rights Mufleh Al-Qahtani said the two sides were very serious in their intent to sign a final agreement to exchange prisoners, especially those sentenced to death.