Iran, Saudi Arabia edge closer to restoring ties

July 25, 2022 - 22:10

TEHRAN – After more than a year of painstaking and security-oriented talks, Iran and Saudi Arabia appear to be on the verge of making a breakthrough that could end years of diplomatic severance. 

Iran announced on Monday that it had accepted an offer by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman for Iraq to hold a public meeting of the Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers, an indication that the countries are moving the talks to the political level. 

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said on Monday that the result of the Iran-Saudi talks in Baghdad was “encouraging.” Speaking at a weekly presser, Kanaani said, “Five rounds of Iran’s negotiations with Saudi Arabia were held and hosted by the Iraqi government. Fortunately, they produced good and encouraging results.”

He pointed to the message relayed by Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein from bin Salman to Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian. According to Kanaani, Hussein told Amir Abdollahian that bin Salman had expressed a desire for Iraq to hold “official and public talks” between Iran and Saudi Arabia. “This is a positive indication and I think, given the positive will of the two sides to take practical steps forward, the ground has been laid for us to hold the next meeting at the official and political level, and take a big and tangible step to elevate and resume relations between the two countries. We appreciate the Iraqi government’s moves in that regard,” the spokesman said. 

The remarks came a few days after Hussein announced that the foreign ministers of Iran and Saudi Arabia would hold a public meeting in Iraq. “Five meetings were held between Saudi Arabia and Iran on the security level,” the Iraqi foreign minister told Rudaw. “The Saudi crown prince asked us to host the meeting of the Saudi foreign minister with his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad.” 

The Iraqi foreign minister added, “We are currently working and we will set a date for a public meeting between the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the two countries in Baghdad. The meetings, which were secret and at the security level, will become public with Iraqi mediation, and the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Iran will meet in Baghdad.” 

The Baghdad talks began in April 2021 and continued intermittently since then, with the recent round somehow public as a photo was published by Iranian media at the time showing Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi flanked by Iranian and Saudi negotiators. The Iranian delegation was led by Saeed Irvani, an official with Iran’s Supreme National Security Council who has just been named Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, while the Saudi negotiating team was headed by Khalid al-Humaidan, the head of Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Directorate. 

Over the last few weeks, Iran has announced multiple times its readiness to resume talks with the purpose of patching up ties soon. Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties with Iran in 2016 over the storming of its diplomatic missions in Iran in the wake of its execution of Shiite cleric Nimr Baqir al-Nimr. 

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