Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Iraq says Iran-Saudi talks move from security to diplomatic phase

The spokesman for Iraq’s foreign ministry has said tension-easing negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia brokered by Baghdad have made tangible progress and moved from security to the diplomatic phase.

In remarks published by the official Iraqi News Agency on Wednesday, Ahmed al-Sahhaf stated Baghdad is mediating talks between the representatives of the two Persian Gulf neighbors, underway since April last year.

“The Iraqi foreign ministry is working on forging multiple strategic partnership agreements,” Sahhaf noted.

“The accords are aimed at ensuring the security and stability of the region. Regional stability is only achieved through concerted efforts to attain common interests,” he added.

The spokesman stressed “the importance of strengthening dialogue mechanisms among regional parties,” noting that the Iraqi foreign ministry is using all available diplomatic channels for the purpose.

Sahhaf remarked that Baghdad is trying to bring the positions of Iran and Saudi Arabia closer and resolve lingering issues between the two countries in a way that would secure the interests of each party.

The remarks come after Iraq’s new Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani at his first press conference in early November said he hopes to continue hosting talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia aimed at rapprochement.

Sudani added his administration had received signs of interest in Iraq continuing to facilitate a dialogue between the two countries.

“We were asked to continue,” he continued, without providing any further information.

Back in July, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian lauded the “constructive” role played by Iraq in advancing the regional dialogue and said there has been “progress” in the last five rounds of talks with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister also said his country intends to establish a close and friendly relationship with Iran.

“We certainly have the intent to build a positive relationship with our neighbors in Iran,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud told English-language France 24 television news network in an interview on the sidelines of the 77th UN General Assembly in New York.

He, however, added that there were still differences with Tehran that currently prevented his meeting with Amirabdollahian.

Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 after Iranian protesters, enraged by the execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr by the Saudi regime, stormed its embassy in Tehran.

The kingdom then pursued a confrontational foreign policy toward the Islamic Republic, especially during the administration of former US president Donald Trump, with whom the Saudi rulers shared close ties.

Saudi Arabia appears to have recently changed its antagonistic course, showing willingness through diplomatic channels and third parties to mend fences with Tehran and resume bilateral relations.

The two neighbors remain deeply divided over a set of regional issues, mainly the destructive and protracted Saudi war on Yemen.

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