Saudi Arabia to appoint new Iraq envoy, Iraqi foreign ministry official says

Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adel al-Jubeir during the press conference in Italy on Feb 20, 2017.
Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adel al-Jubeir during the press conference in Italy on Feb 20, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

BAGHDAD (REUTERS) - Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir told Iraqi officials in Baghdad on Saturday (Feb 25) that the kingdom plans to appoint a new ambassador, an Iraqi foreign ministry official said.

Iraq last year asked Saudi Arabia to replace its ambassador, Thamer al-Sabhan, after his comments about Iranian involvement in Iraqi affairs and alleged persecution of Sunni Muslims angered local Shi'ite Muslim politicians and militia leaders.

Jubeir's visit to Baghdad is the first by a Saudi foreign minister since 1990.

On his visit, Jubeir met his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim a-Jaafari and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

Sabhan was the first ambassador appointed by Saudi Arabia after it reopened its embassy in Baghdad in 2015 following a 25-year break.

Saudi Arabia has long accused Iraq of being too close to Shi'ite Iran, its main regional rival, and of encouraging sectarian discrimination against Sunnis, a charge Baghdad denies.

Enmity between Sunni and Shi'ite regional powers has deepened in recent years as sectarian conflicts rage in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.