Manama: The Arar border crossing between Saudi Arabia and Iraq is set to open within months, Saudi Ambassador to Iraq Abdul Aziz Al Shimmari said.

The crossing has been opened only for pilgrims making the land trip from Iraq to Makkah.

The ambassador made the statement as a Saudi Arabia Airlines plane landed in Arbil, the Iraqi Kurdistan region’s capital, for the first time.

The plane arrived in Arbil one year after the Saudi airliner resumed flights to the Iraqi capital Baghdad after 27 years.

“Travel between Iraq and Saudi Arabia will not be confined to their air, and it will also include land travel through the opening of the Arar crossing within the next few months,” he told Al Sharq Awsat daily.

The use of Iraqi airspace by Saudi aircraft and of the Saudi airspace by Iraqi planes is another indication that bilateral relations have greatly improved, he added.

Al Shimmari said he was looking forward to Saudi Arabia Airlines flying to other Iraqi airports as well, such as Najaf, Basra and Sulaimaniyah.

“The future is bright and we look forward to the opening of the border crossing between our two countries within 10 months.”

Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Baghdad in December 2015 after it shut it in 1990 when former president Saddam Hussain invaded Kuwait.

Even though Saddam was ousted in April 2003, relations between Riyadh and Baghdad remained tense, particularly during the presidency of Iraqi former prime minister Nouri Al Maliki.

However, bilateral ties have been steadily progressing since the agreement of both parties to establish a coordination council, following the visit of Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi to Saudi Arabia in 2017.

The council was set up in July last year.

“We look forward to widening our relations in all areas in a way that serves the interests of our brotherly peoples. We also look forward to deepening cooperation through the Coordination Council, which is the basis for boosting economic relations and commercial and expertise exchanges,” Al Abadi said.

Saudi Arabia has had a consulate general in Arbil since February 2016.