Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi arrived in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, his first visit to the UAE.
He was received by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed forces.
Sheikh Mohamed hosted an official reception ceremony for Mr Al Kadhimi at Qasr Al Watan, which included a 21-gun salute, honour guard and the national anthems of the UAE and Iraq.
The visit comes as the Iraqi prime minister seeks to forge stronger ties with the Gulf.
Sheikh Mohamed said it was “a pleasure to welcome our brother Mustafa Al Kadhimi … to the UAE.”
He said he looked forward to “fruitful discussions regarding the prosperity and development of our brotherly nations”.
Before his arrival, Iraq Airways said it planned to start direct flights to Abu Dhabi from May 1.
Mr Al Kadhimi is spearheading a drive to boost trade and economic co-operation with regional heavyweights to revive the Iraqi economy. During a visit to Saudi Arabia last week the two nations announced a $3 billion joint investment fund to boost the private sector.
Mr Al Kadhimi is leading his country to early parliamentary elections in October, one of the demands of a youth-led protest movement that began in late 2019.
The demonstrations were triggered by high unemployment and a lack of public services, with protesters also calling for an end to corruption and foreign influence over Iraqi affairs.
Iraq is the biggest oil producer in Opec after Saudi Arabia but relies heavily on Iranian gas imports needed for electricity amid frequent blackouts. Iraq and the Gulf have connected power lines as Baghdad seeks other sources of power.
The UAE-based energy firm Crescent Petroleum has invested more than $3 billion in Iraq and has a 20-year gas sales deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region.
In 2008, the UAE cancelled almost $7bn of debt, including interest and arrears payments, owed by Baghdad, becoming the first Gulf Arab country to forgive all of Iraq’s debt.