Tehran, Iran – Iran’s foreign ministry has for the first time confirmed that talks have been held with regional rival Saudi Arabia in an effort to reduce tensions between the two countries and across the region.
Foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told a virtual press conference on Monday that Iran has always welcomed talks with its regional peers and that policy has not changed.
“But let us wait to see the results of these talks and judge based on results,” he said.
This comes days after a Saudi foreign ministry official confirmed the talks, also saying it was premature to discuss definitive conclusions.
Neither side has divulged details of the talks, but reports say that, in addition to bilateral ties, Tehran and Riyadh are talking about developments in Yemen and Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that Saudi Arabia has opposed.
A Saudi-led military coalition has been battling Yemen’s Houthis for the past six years, causing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The Houthis, which Saudi Arabia says are armed by Iran, have recently stepped up their attacks on Saudi soil.
Meanwhile, multilateral talks in Vienna to restore Iran’s nuclear deal – which the United States abandoned in 2018 – are now in their fourth round and delegates are working against the clock as a three-month deadline for a temporary agreement between Iran and the global nuclear watchdog approaches on May 21 and the country is due to hold a presidential election in June.
The potential for Iran-Saudi rapprochement comes as the US reduces its presence in the troubled region and has ended its support for the war in Yemen.
Last month, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said he wants good relations with Shia Iran even though his Sunni Muslim kingdom still finds problems with Tehran’s “negative behaviour”.
Tensions between Riyadh and Tehran have played out across the region in recent years as they have backed opposing sides in Lebanon and Syria. Iran supported Qatar when other Arab nations imposed a blockade on it that was only lifted in January.
The possible thaw in relations comes amid a flurry of engagement in the region.
Iran may be on the verge of improving ties with other Arab states as reports indicate Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif could visit the United Arab Emirates (UAE) soon.
The foreign ministry’s Khatibzadeh confirmed on Monday that a Zarif visit to the UAE “has been on the agenda” and will happen when conditions are right.
Zarif last month went on a four-country tour of the region that took him to Qatar, Iraq, Kuwait, and Oman.