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Rex Tillerson pushes Saudi, Iraq on united front to counter Iran

Saudi Arabia is also seeking to counter Iranian influence in Iraq

AFP | PTI  |  Riyadh 

Rex Tillerson
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques receives US Secretary of State | Photo Twitter: Saudi Press Agency

Top US diplomat attended a landmark meeting today between and aimed at upgrading strategic ties between the two countries and countering Iran's regional influence.

Iraqi Prime Minister and Saudi held the first meeting of the joint Saudi-Iraqi coordination council that aims to boost cooperation after years of tensions.

Abadi hailed the meeting as an "important step toward enhancing relations", echoing similar comments from

"We are facing in our region serious challenges in the form of extremism, as well as attempts to destabilise our countries," the Saudi monarch said.

"These attempts require our full attention."

is seeking economic benefits from closer ties with as both countries suffer from a protracted oil slump.

is also seeking to counter Iranian influence in

"This event highlights the strength and breadth as well as the great potential of the relations between your countries," said, referring to the meeting.

After years of tense relations, ties between Sunni-ruled and Shiite-majority Iraq have begun looking up in recent months.

After former dictator, Saddam Hussein's August 1990 invasion of Kuwait, severed relations with Baghdad and closed its border posts with its northern neighbour.

Ties remained strained even after Saddam's ouster in the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, since when successive Shiite- dominated governments in Baghdad have stayed close to Tehran.

But a flurry of visits between the two countries this year appears to indicate a thawing of ties.

Abadi's tour coincides with Saudi Energy Minister Khaled al-Faleh's high profile visit to Baghdad on Saturday where he called for the strengthening of economic relations to boost oil prices.

At the opening of the Baghdad Fair, Falih hailed what he called "the new Iraq, on the ambitious road to prosperity and growth while strengthening its relations with the world".

First Published: Sun, October 22 2017. 17:32 IST