Riyadh gives ‘green light’ for talks with Tehran: report

October 2, 2019 - 20:16

TEHRAN – An Iraqi government official says Saudi Arabia has given a green light to Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to arrange a meeting with Iran as a first step towards de-escalating tensions in the region, the Middle East Eye reported on Tuesday.

MEE quoted Abbas al-Hasnawi, an official in the prime minister’s office, as saying on Tuesday that Abdul Mahdi was mediating between the leaderships in Riyadh and Tehran and had communicated each side’s conditions for talks to the other.

The remarks came after Iranian government spokesman Ali Rabiei said Saudi Arabia had sent messages to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani via the leaders of some countries.

Hasnawi confirmed that Abdul Mahdi was acting as an intermediary with the aim of easing tensions since the September 14 attacks on Saudi oil facilities blamed on Iran appeared to have tilted the Persian Gulf rivals closer to open conflict.

“The Iraqi leadership has channels with both sides. Our Sunni brothers [in the government] liaise with the Saudis and our Shia brothers with the Iranians,” he said.

“The Saudis have conditions before the negotiations process starts and the same with Iranians. We have liaised these conditions to each side. It is not an easy task to get together two opposite sides in terms of their ideology, sect and their alliances in the region.”

Earlier, the Iraqi prime minister had said he believed Saudi Arabia was looking to de-escalate tensions with Iran.

In an interview with Al Jazeera published on Monday, he said that it is in everybody’s interest to prevent further war in the region.

“Nobody possesses the weapons necessary to deal their adversary a fatal blow. Chaos and destruction will hit the region in its entirety,” he said.

“Everybody is open to dialogue,” he said. “Iran says [it is] willing to negotiate if sanctions are lifted; the U.S. [also] asks for dialogue ... neither does Saudi Arabia close the door for dialogue,” Abdul Hadi added.

“There are many countries, and Iraq is one of them, that can offer a solution or a place for a solution to be found.”

In an interview with the CBS program “60 Minutes” broadcast on Sunday, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said he preferred a political resolution rather than a military one to the issues with Iran.

A war with Iran would lead to “a total collapse of the global economy”, he said, as he called for a political solution and backed talks between U.S. President Donald Trump and Iran’s leaders.  

“The political and peaceful solution is much better than the military one,” he added.

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani welcomed the Saudi crown prince’s willingness to resolve disputes with Tehran through talks, saying Iran’s doors are open to the Saudis.

Larijani said if Iran and Saudi Arabia hold talks, many of the region’s security and political problems would be resolved.

“We want to create a security system in the Persian Gulf with cooperation of all Persian Gulf states,” ISNA quoted Larijani as saying.

Tensions in the Persian Gulf have heightened following the attack on Saudi oil fields, which Riyadh and their Western allies, especially the U.S., blamed on Iran.

Iran has rejected the claim that it is behind the attack on the Saudi oil sites, calling it a “great deceit” in line with “great pressure” campaign on the Islamic Republic.

Yemen’s Houthi movement has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said last month that “even the Saudis themselves don't believe the fiction of Iranian involvement” in the attacks on the Aramco oil facilities.