Iran is ready to restore ties, but will Saudi Arabia reciprocate?

June 27, 2022 - 21:3

TEHRAN – Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has undertaken shuttle diplomacy to breathe new life into Iran-Saudi talks. He succeeded in getting Iran to forge ahead with diplomacy with Saudi Arabia but whether the Saudis are ready to reciprocate remains an open question. 

Al-Kadhimi visited the Saudi Kingdom on Saturday for talks on “several regional and international issues,” as well as “efforts to consolidate peace and calm in the region.”

In Saudi Arabia he met with the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. In the meeting, they put emphasis on “regional cooperation in a way that promotes sustainable development in the region,” according to a press release by the Iraqi Prime Minister’s office. The two sides stressed the prominent role of Iraq in the convergence of views in the region and in the efforts to establish calm and constructive dialogues.

In a move that indicated his mediatory role, al-Kadhimi left the Saudi port city of Jeddah for Tehran where he met Iranian President Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian.

The Iraqi Prime Minister’s office has said that al-Kadhimi discussed with President Raisi “the most important regional issues that are of common interest, which involve issues related to the security of the two neighboring countries and the stability of the region.”

Yemen and Egypt were also on the agenda of the visit. All in all, al-Kadhimi is making efforts to boost his country’s status as the mediator on which regional heavyweights rely to dispel misunderstandings. Iraq’s mediatory role first came to the surface when Baghdad began contact with Tehran and Riyadh with the aim of finding a common ground between the two rivals. And Iraq made great strides in this regard. 

Iran and Saudi Arabia held five rounds of talks in Baghdad, with al-Kadhimi playing a key role in facilitating the talks. In the last round held in late April, the Iraqi prime minister appeared flanked by the Iranian and Saudi negotiators in a photo. In that round, the fifth of its kind, Tehran and Riyadh agreed to elevate the talks from the security level to the diplomatic one. Nearly two months after the fifth round, the talks came to a standstill again, something that required al-Khadhimi to pay visits to Iran and Saudi Arabia. And he apparently succeeded in breaking the ice as Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday that the next round will be held soon. 

Iran also signaled its openness to exchanging embassies. But there is a clear apathy on the Saudi side. The Saudis did not reciprocate Iran’s willingness to open a new chapter in relations. Instead, they are busy making consultations with other regional players about the upcoming visit of U.S. President Joe Biden to the region, which has raised alarm bells in Tehran, given the speculation over the U.S. intention to forge a regional alliance against Iran.

Iran made several diplomatic efforts to restore relations with Saudi Arabia. In addition, it played an active role in fostering peace in Yemen, the main concern of the Saudis which has overshadowed the Baghdad talks.

In response to a phone call from Mahdi Al-Mashat, the chairman of the Yemeni Supreme Political Council, on Saturday afternoon, President Raisi said the Islamic Republic supports the truce between Yemen and Saudi Arabia and wished that it will lead to “durable peace” between the two sides. 

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