Saturday, February 4, 2023

Saudi FM says Riyadh trying to ease tensions with Tehran

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud has stated that Riyadh is trying to find a path to dialog with Iran as the best way to resolve differences amid a diplomatic process between the two neighbors aimed at mending strained ties.

Speaking at a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday, the chief Saudi diplomat stated that a decision by Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states to focus on their economies and development was a “strong signal to Iran and others in the region that there is a pathway beyond traditional arguments and disputes towards joint prosperity.”

He added, “I think the more we can build a sense of cooperation in the region, the more we can work together, the more we can deliver not just prosperity for our people, but also for our immediate region and beyond.”

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian expressed hope on Friday during a visit to Lebanon that diplomatic ties between Tehran and Riyadh could be restored through dialog between them.

“We are ready to restore ties, and such a move would have positive repercussions on the entire region,” he told a news conference in Beirut.

He also said the first steps should be resuming talks on reopening Iran’s consulate in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, and Saudi Arabia’s consulate in the holy northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad for citizens interested in religious travel.

“But as we see it, Saudi Arabia is not completely ready to work on… normalizing ties,” Amir-Abdollahian told reporters.

Last month, Amir-Abdollahian held a meeting with his Saudi counterpart on the sidelines of a conference in Jordan.

The spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry suggested later that diplomats from the Islamic Republic would most likely launch a new round of tension-easing negotiations with their Saudi counterparts in Baghdad.

“Our stance regarding Saudi Arabia and the process of negotiations between the two countries is quite clear. Fortunately, it seems that the two sides see eye to eye about the constructive and positive course of talks,” Nasser Kanaani noted at a weekly press briefing in Tehran in late December.

He added that five rounds of talks mediated by the Iraqi government have been held between the official delegations of the two countries in Baghdad.

“Given the status quo, it is likely to hold a new round of talks in Baghdad. Our Iraqi friends put in good efforts as to hosting previous talks between the two countries, and fortunately they continue their endeavors. The Iraqi side is trusted by both sides, and its efforts to create suitable conditions for holding a new round of dialog are welcomed,” he noted.

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 government, 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 had 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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