Iran and Saudi Arabia expected to resume direct talks soon

Two regional rivals began secret talks hosted by Baghdad in April and more discussions are planned soon in Iraq.

Officials from Iran and Saudi Arabia spoke at a regional summit hosted by Baghdad on Saturday [Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/via AP]

Tehran, Iran – Iran and Saudi Arabia appear to be ready to resume direct talks hosted by Iraq in the near future, Iranian state media reported.

Iran’s new Foreign Affairs Minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, said during a late-night interview on state television on Monday that he had spoken with his Saudi counterpart, Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, at the regional summit hosted by Baghdad on Saturday.

“The Saudi counterpart said we’re waiting for the new government in Iran to be situated and we will resume our communications,” said Amirabdollahian.

The two regional rivals began secret talks hosted by Baghdad in April but the discussions were temporarily halted pending the formation of President Ebrahim Raisi’s administration.

Raisi’s cabinet gained a sweeping vote of confidence from Iran’s parliament days before last week’s Baghdad summit, which marked Amirabdollahian’s first trip as foreign minister.

Iran’s envoy to Baghdad also confirmed on Monday that a fourth round of talks with Saudi officials will be held soon.

“Iran has expressed its readiness for dialogue and peace and has extended its hand of help and assistance toward neighbours and countries in the region,” Iraj Masjedi said.

The meeting, aimed at rallying support for Iraq was also a significant indicator of regional efforts to de-escalate tensions, marked the first time in more than five years that senior officials from Iran and Saudi Arabia attended the same event.

Riyadh and Tehran cut diplomatic ties in early 2016 after the kingdom’s embassy in Tehran was stormed by a mob following the killing of a renowned Shia cleric in Saudi Arabia.

Tensions escalated after Saudi Arabia said it would support former US President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign of harsh sanctions against Iran after his unilateral withdrawal from the country’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

In 2019, US and Saudi officials said Iran was responsible for a missile and drone attack on the kingdom’s main oil facilities, which temporarily knocked out half of its crude oil output.

Source: Al Jazeera