Saudi Arabia stands at an equal distance from all Iraqi communities and supports the unity and stability of Iraq, said the Saudi foreign minister on Saturday during his first official visit to the neighboring country.
After meeting his Iraqi counterpart, Ibrahim Al-Jaafari, Adel Al-Jubeir said: “It’s the hope of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to build excellent relations between the two brotherly countries.”
Speaking to reporters after meeting Al-Jaafari, Al-Jubeir stated Riyadh’s willingness to help bridge the sectarian divide.
During the meeting, they discussed issues of common interest in addition to means of enhancing bilateral relations. Al-Jaafari said: “The ties that bind are many, and the visit comes to restore bilateral relations to their correct course.”
Following the meeting, Al-Jubeir attended a luncheon banquet held in his honor by Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi who received Al-Jubeir at his office.
Al-Jubeir described his meeting with Al-Abadi as positive and fruitful.
Al-Jubeir congratulated Iraq on its achievements in countering terrorism, stressing the desire of both countries to eliminate the scourge.
“There are also many shared interests from fighting extremism and terrorism or opportunities for investment and trade between the two countries,” he added.
The reopening of the Saudi Embassy in Baghdad, closed in 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait, was seen as heralding closer cooperation against Daesh, which is under attack in Mosul and has claimed bombings in Saudi Arabia.
Al-Jubeir’s visit to Baghdad is the first by a Saudi foreign minister since 1990.
Meanwhile, Iraqi forces pushed deeper into western Mosul Saturday amid stiff resistance from entrenched Daesh terrorists, a commander on the scene said.
Special forces Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab Al-Saadi said his troops are “moving very slowly” and that Daesh militants are responding with car bombs, snipers and dozens of armed drones. Hundreds of civilians have fled the conflict zone.
The drones have caused relatively few deaths, but have inflicted dozens of light injuries that have disrupted the pace of ground operations.
Al-Saadi said he expects the pace to increase after Iraqi forces retake territory and infrastructure on Mosul’s southwestern edge — which will allow them to shorten supply lines and link up with forces in the city’s east.
On the edge of a small village south of Mosul, dozens of families gathered against a crude cinder-block wall. Many said they were from villages outside Mosul and had been forced to march to the city more than four months ago to serve as human shields.
“We’ve been through terrible times,” said Juri Fathi, a mother of six who was forced to live in a school in Mosul for three months. “I had to burn my children’s clothing just for warmth.”
“We brought them directly from inside Mosul,” said an Iraqi special forces soldier from inside the Humvee that delivered the detainees. “They were shooting at us, I saw them with my own eyes,” he said.
A former Iraqi army lieutenant colonel and specialist in land-attack missiles, using the nickname Abu Karim fearing for the safety of his family, described a “deteriorating security and humanitarian situation” inside western Mosul.
“I’m hiding in my house, and my wife lives in constant fear of Daesh raiding our home,” said Abu Karim.
Abu Karim said Daesh fighters have been setting up checkpoints and storming homes to crack down on informants, meting out punishments for anyone carrying a mobile phone or found with an Internet connection.
Also Saturday, a Kurdish journalist working for the Rudaw news organization, Shifa Gerdi, was killed covering the Mosul operation.