The kingdom on Saturday sent its Oil Minister Khalid al-Falih to Baghdad to look for avenues to boost cooperation over oil market issues.
Al-Falih delivered a speech at a key trade fair in the Iraqi capital on the same day through which he praised the existing coordination between Riyadh and Baghdad to boost oil prices.
In his speech at the opening of the Baghdad International Exhibition, the Saudi minister emphasized that cooperation between the two countries contributed to “the improvement and stability we are seeing in the oil market.”
“The best example of the importance of cooperation between our countries is the improvement and stability trend seen in the oil market,” said Falih, to applause from the audience of Iraqi ministers, senior officials and businessmen, as reported by Reuters.
Falih is the first Saudi official to make a public speech in Baghdad for decades. The two countries began taking steps towards detente in 2015 when Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir visited Baghdad for talks on issues of mutual concern – the first visit by a Saudi official in 25 years.
The Saudi minister is reported to have further agreed in a meeting with his Iraqi counterpart Jabar al-Luaibi to cooperate in implementing decisions by oil exporting countries to curb global supply in order to lift crude prices.
Saudi Arabia and Iraq are respectively the biggest and second biggest producers of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
Saudi Arabia has been under pressure from a sluggish growth in economy, oil cuts, a huge budget deficit as well as heavy foreign borrowing.
The war against neighboring Yemen has also squeezed the country’s economy further. Based on a recent Harvard study, the war on Yemen is costing Saudi Arabia up to $200 million a day.
The Arab monarchy now seems to be looking to secure a foothold in Iraq, a country with rich natural reserves and an exceptional geostrategic position.
The visit to Baghdad by the Saudi oil minister comes as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has arrived in Riyadh to discuss regional matters.
Tillerson is also expected at landmark meetings between Saudi and Iraqi officials – an initiative which is seen as part of Washington’s strategy to pull Baghdad away from Iran and toward Riyadh.
America’s top diplomat will later leave for Doha and later on to New Delhi and Islamabad in his multiple-day regional tour.