Iraqi delegation in Riyadh cements ties with Saudi Arabia

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Iraq's Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi attends the opening of the Saudi-Iraqi Business Forum in Riyadh on April 18, 2019. (REUTERS)
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From left, Iraq Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Fuad Hussein, SAMA Governor Ahmed Al-Khulaifi and Trade Bank of Iraq Chairman Faisal Al-Haimus during the bank's branch opening in Riyadh. (AN photo)
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Saudi Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Khalid Al-Falih meets with Iraqi Oil Minister Thamir Al-Ghadhban. (AN photo)
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Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir meets with Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali Al-Hakim. (AN photo)
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Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) CEO Dr. Hisham bin Saad Al-Jadhey with Undersecretary of the Iraqi Ministry of Health Hazem Al-Jumaily. (AN photo)
Updated 19 April 2019

Iraqi delegation in Riyadh cements ties with Saudi Arabia

  • First Iraqi bank branch opened in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: A large Iraqi delegation, featuring government departments and representatives from the private sector, has arrived in Saudi Arabia to take part in a host of events, talks and opening ceremonies to cement ties between the two nations.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi was greeted by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and held high-level talks with both on a number of topics, ranging from bilateral cooperation in defense to shared investment projects. 

He also met with the Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, who congratulated him on the recent defeat of the militant group Daesh by Iraqi and coalition forces.

Abdul Mahdi was also the guest of honor at the opening ceremony of a major exhibition, “Age Old Cities Destroyed by Terrorism,” at the National Museum in Riyadh.

Abdul Mahdi later signed a number of memorandums of understanding (MoUs) between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and briefly joined discussions between his country’s oil ministry and the Kingdom’s minister of commerce and investment, Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Al-Qassabi, before leaving Riyadh for an official visit to Jeddah.

Elsewhere, there were a number of bilateral departmental meetings between Iraqi and Saudi government ministers to discuss various areas of mutual interest and cooperation.

Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Ali Al-Hakim met with his Saudi counterpart Adel Al-Jubeir; Dr. Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Sheikh, the Kingdom’s education minister, held talks with Iraq’s Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Dr. Qusay Abdul Wahab Al-Suhail; and there were further meetings between other ministries concerning energy, agriculture, infrastructure, food and health.

The visit also saw important developments in the financial relations between the two states, as Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) became the first Iraqi bank to open a branch in Saudi Arabia after unveiling its first foreign premises in Riyadh on Thursday.

The branch office in Al-Olayya district was officially opened by Fuad Hussein, Iraq’s deputy prime minister. He was joined at the ceremony by Ahmed Al-Khulaifi, the governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, and Faisal Al-Haimus, chairman of TBI.

The bank was established shortly after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by the US-led coalition, whose provisional authorities used it to facilitate stagnant trade and kickstart the economy following the conclusion of initial hostilities and the start of the occupation, coupled with the end of the UN’s 1995 Oil-for-Food Programme. Around 80 percent of TBI is controlled by the Iraqi government.

“This is a hugely significant day for the financial sector of Iraq and the country as a whole,” said Hussein. “This is an important step toward reinforcing our relationship with the Saudi government, and we look forward to advancing bilateral ties between our countries.”

Speaking to Arab News, Al-Haimus said: “This is a very important step, as all trade between any two countries requires financing. Our Riyadh branch will provide the funds and assistance to facilitate that trade, and will increase the present level, currently around $500 million annually, to about $4 billion by next year.”

Hajj pilgrims praise Saudi support at Dhaka airport

Updated 17 July 2019

Hajj pilgrims praise Saudi support at Dhaka airport

  • Seventy immigration officials from Saudi Arabia are currently in Dhaka to accomplish pilgrims’ immigration tasks
  • At the airport, Saudi authorities have established 15 booths to serve pilgrims, who have to record 10-finger impressions in the Kingdom’s immigration database

DHAKA: Pre-immigration facilities provided by Saudi Arabia for Hajj pilgrims in Bangladesh have helped reduce waiting times by several hours after their arrival at airports in the Kingdom, several of them said on Wednesday.
The program is part of Saudi Arabia’s Road to Makkah initiative, whereby pilgrims can complete immigration at airports in their home country instead of doing it on arrival in the Kingdom.
From this year, Bangladeshi pilgrims are enjoying pre-immigration facilities at Dhaka airport.
“Among the 127,000 Bangladeshi pilgrims, this year 60,500 of them will have the opportunity to complete the immigration formalities at Dhaka airport,” Bangladeshi Religious Affairs Secretary Anisur Rahman told Arab News.
“From next year, all Bangladeshi pilgrims will enjoy this pre-immigration system at Dhaka airport.”
Seventy immigration officials from Saudi Arabia are currently in Dhaka to accomplish pilgrims’ immigration tasks. Three Saudi organizations are working at Dhaka airport to accomplish these tasks.
At the airport, Saudi authorities have established 15 booths to serve pilgrims, who have to record 10-finger impressions in the Kingdom’s immigration database.
In addition, at the immigration counter officials take photographs of the pilgrims, Rahman said.
“The pre-immigration system was supposed to be launched from the first Hajj flight on July 4, but due to technical issues we couldn’t do that on the first day. However, things are now running very smoothly,” he added.
Abdul Kayum Bepari, a Bangladeshi pilgrim who completed his Saudi immigration formalities at Dhaka airport, told Arab News: “It’s an amazing experience. All immigration formalities were completed within a minute. When I performed Hajj in 2011, it took more than four hours for me to complete the immigration formalities at the Saudi airport.”
Bangladeshi pilgrim Sadek Ali told Arab News: “Everything is very disciplined. This pre-immigration system has truly eased the hassle of thousands of Bangladeshi pilgrims.”
Pilgrim Bulbuli Begum told Arab News: “My Saudi immigration formalities took only a few seconds to be completed.”
Pre-immigration support for Bangladeshi pilgrims will continue until the last Hajj flight, which is scheduled on Aug. 5.
“We’re trying to ensure maximum support and comfort to the pilgrims,” said a Saudi immigration official at Dhaka airport.
“They don’t even need to worry about luggage. Once the pilgrims land at a Saudi airport, they’ll immediately board hotel-bound buses and will receive their luggage at the hotel.”