April 18, 2019 / 8:26 AM / 4 months ago

Iraqi PM Abdul Mahdi met Saudi crown prince in Riyadh

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia April 17, 2019. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi met with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, his office said on Thursday, a day after his first official visit to the kingdom which has been wooing Baghdad to stem the influence of Tehran.

Abdul Mahdi’s meeting with the crown prince came after he met King Salman on Wednesday. His office said the leaders signed 13 agreements in areas such as trade, energy and political cooperation, without giving further details.

The premier has said Iraq would maintain strong ties with Iran, but also with the United States and regional neighbours, many of which, like Saudi Arabia, consider Tehran a foe.

Abdul Mahdi went to Riyadh with a large delegation including officials and businessmen, with trade billed as a prime focus of the discussions between OPEC’s two largest oil producers.

The countries had historically been at loggerheads since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 but have recently undertaken a diplomatic push to improve ties.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia reopened a consulate in Baghdad which had been closed for 30 years. King Salman also announced his country would provide Iraq $1 billon to build sport facilities, an announcement which kicked of a two-day visit to Iraq by high-level Saudi officials.

U.S. intelligence agencies believe Crown Prince Mohammed, who many consider the de facto ruler of the kingdom, ordered an operation to kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year. Riyadh denies the prince had any involvement in the murder.

During his visit to Tehran, Abdul Mahdi met with President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Many of Iraq’s leaders, from its Shi’ite majority, have close ties with Iran, the main Shi’ite power in the Middle East.

Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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