Discussions between Iran and Saudi Arabia are on the right track but it will take more time to restore bilateral ties, Iran’s foreign minister has said in Beirut.
Shia-majority Iran and Sunni kingpin Saudi Arabia, on opposing sides in multiple regional conflicts, have been engaged in talks since April with the aim of improving relations for the first time since cutting ties in 2016.
The discussions were launched under Iran’s former moderate president Hassan Rouhani and have continued since his ultraconservative successor, Ebrahim Raisi, took office in August.
“The Iran-Saudi dialogue is on the right track,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said during a news conference on Friday at the Iranian embassy in Beirut, on the second day of a 48-hour visit to Lebanon.
“We have achieved results and agreements, but we still need more dialogue,” he said.
“The two parties will announce these agreements at the appropriate time. We welcome the continuation of the talks and the results that benefit both sides and the region.”
Abdollahian added: “It was not us who broke off diplomatic relations – that was a Saudi decision.”
The two countries cut ties in 2016 after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran following the kingdom’s execution of a revered Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
Saudi Arabia and Iran have long been rivals over several regional issues.
In Yemen, Iran supports Shia Houthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa and are battling the government, despite more than six years of Saudi-led military efforts to crush them.
Tehran has also been the main regional backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against Sunni rebels since war broke out in 2011.
In Lebanon, Iran-backed Shia group Hezbollah plays a pivotal role in political life, while its fighters have been heavily involved in neighbouring Syria in support of al-Assad’s government.
“Saudi Arabia is a significant country in the region. The Islamic Republic of Iran likewise,” Abdollahian said in Beirut.
“The role of these two countries in [ensuring the] sustainable security of the region is significant,” he added.