Iraq’s Abadi visits Saudis in bid for reconciliation between Shi’a, Sunnis

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Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Iraq’s Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi visited Saudi Arabia on June 19 in the first leg of a tour of the Persian Gulf region that will also include Iran and Kuwait, his office said.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, right, with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi in Jeddah on June 19.

Abadi’s visit to Saudi Arabia aims to promote reconciliation between the Sunni Muslim kingdom and majority Shi’ite Iraq, a move that also helps heal divisions between Shi’ites and the Sunni minority in Iraq.

Abadi’s meeting with Saudi King Salman will be their second this year as the neighbors try to heal a rift over Iraq’s alliance with Shi’ite Iran.

“We don’t want to be part of any axis,” Abadi said as he left Baghdad, referring to the rivalry between Iran and the Saudis.

“We want to coordinate with these states to continue fighting terrorism,” Abadi said, referring to Islamic State, the extremist Sunni group that controls parts of Iraq and Syria, and has staged attacks in both Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as the West.

Iraq lies on the fault line between Shi’ite Iran and the mainly Sunni Arab world. Tensions escalated after Iran emerged as the main power broker in Iraq after the United States withdrew its troops in 2011.