US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is heading to the Middle
East on Friday, attending a landmark meeting between the governments of Saudi
Arabia and Iraq, and exploring ways of improving relations between the two
countries, VOA reported.
The inaugural Coordination Council meeting comes amid a warming of relations between Riyadh and Baghdad. The gathering is seen as part of U.S. efforts to reduce Iran’s increasing influence in Iraq by encouraging Baghdad to align more closely with Riyadh.
"Iran is always a huge concern of ours, not just in Iraq, but throughout the region," said State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert during a briefing Thursday.
She added that the US welcomes the improvement of relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, citing an example of how the reopening of the border crossing facilitates commerce between the two nations.
The meeting will be held in the Saudi capital of Riyadh four months after the two countries signed an agreement to establish a council to improve relations between the neighboring countries in an attempt to counter Iran's broad influence in the region.
While in Riyadh, Tillerson will also "meet with various Saudi leaders to discuss the conflict in Yemen, the ongoing Gulf dispute, Iran, and a number of other important and regional and bilateral issues," according to the State Department.
Tillerson's visit to Riyadh will be one of several to countries in the Persian Gulf region and South Asia from October 20-27.
Tillerson will then meet with Qatar leaders and US military officials in the capital of Doha to discuss "joint counterterrorism efforts" and "other regional and bilateral issues," before visiting India, Pakistan and Switzerland.