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Saudi Crown Prince requested mediation with Iran: Iraq minister

Mohammed Bin Salman has taken steps toward improving ties with Iraq in recent weeks [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 August, 2017

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Iraq’s Interior Minister, Qassim al-Araji revealed on Sunday that he had been assigned by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Iraq's Interior Minister revealed that he had been assigned to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran on Sunday, after a request by the kingdom's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in the latest efforts to strengthen ties between the regional enemies.

Qassim al-Araji said that "the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia has formally asked me to mediate with Iran to curb the tension between the two countries," during a press conference with his Iranian counterpart Abdul Ridha Rahmani Fadhli in Tehran.

He added that "the Saudi side informed Iran that the first step that could lead to the easing of tension between them is for Riyadh to treat Iranian pilgrims positively, and allowing them to visit the cemetery of Baqi."

The Iraqi minister said that "the Saudi side promised to implement this, and stressed that Baqi is now open for Iranian pilgrims," adding that "Iraq believes in the need for friendly relations between Tehran and Riyadh because they contribute to strengthening the security of the region."

"Respect for Iranian pilgrims is very important for Tehran, which is always seeking to strengthen its relations with Saudi Arabia," he added.

Al-Araji, who is a senior leader of the Popular Mobilisation Forces - more commonly known in Arabic as al-Hashd al-Shaabi - visited Saudi Arabia in mid-July after being formally invited by Riyadh to discuss a range of prominent topics.

The latest developments came after Mohammed Bin Salman met with met with one of Iraq's most prominent Shia clerics, Moqtada al-Sadr in a rare meeting last month, where the two leaders discussed "improving trade relations" via a new Saudi consulate in Najaf.

During the meeting, Sadr’s office confirmed "the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques [a formal title for the King of Saudi Arabia] will issue an additional $10 million to help the internally displaced persons via the government of Iraq," a statement said.

"Sadr's visit to Saudi Arabia confirms that Iraq distances itself from the regional sectarianism that has arisen amid complex conditions in the region," said Karim Nuri, leader of Hashd al-Shaabi.

The New Arab's correspondent in Iraq reported that Sadr's office had also been awarded special visas to attend this year's Hajj pilgrimage.

Following the meeting, Sadr travelled on a private jet to Abu Dhabi on Sunday after being invited to visit the Gulf state, as "part of Saudi efforts to move closer to Iraqi political parties after a long period of estrangement," an anonymous source told The New Arab.

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