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March 10, 2023 8:32 pm

Iran, Saudi Arabia Agree to Resume Relations, Re-open Embassies


Days of trilateral negotiations in Beijing resulted in reconciliation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, who have decided to resume diplomatic relations and reopen their embassies within the next two months.

BEIJING: Arch rivals ​Iran and Saudi Arabia have reached an agreement in the Chin​a​ to restore their diplomatic relations and re-open embassies and missions, seven years after their ties were broken over several issues.

The agreement was struck on Friday after several days of intensive negotiations between Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani and his Saudi counterpart in ​the Chinese capital of Beijing. It was officially announced in a joint statement by Iran, Saudi Arabia and China.

The statement was inked by Shakhani, Musaid Al Aiban, Saudi Arabia’s national security adviser, and Wang Yi, the director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party.

​Iranian and Saudi officials have been involved in intensive talks in Beijing since Monday to find a final solution to the issues between ​Muslim worlds two biggest and most influential countries. The negotiations followed a meeting between Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing last month.

“As a result of the talks, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia agreed to resume diplomatic relations and re-open embassies and missions within two months,” the joint statement said.

It added that the Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers will meet to “implement this decision and make the necessary arrangements for the exchange of ambassadors.”

In the footage aired by Iranian media, Wang could be heard offering “whole-hearted congratulations” on the two countries’ “wisdom”.

“Both sides have displayed sincerity,” he said. “China fully supports this agreement.”

The Saudi Press Agency confirmed the agreement when it also published the joint statement from Saudi Arabia and Iran, which said that the two countries had agreed to respect state sovereignty and not interfere in each other’s internal affairs.

The statement also said that Riyadh and Tehran had agreed to activate a security cooperation agreement signed in 2001.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted Shamkhani as calling the talks “clear, transparent, comprehensive and constructive”.

“Removing misunderstandings and the future-oriented views in relations between Tehran and Riyadh will definitely lead to improving regional stability and security, as well as increasing cooperation among Persian Gulf nations and the world of Islam for managing current challenges,” Shamkhani was quoted as saying.

Tensions have long been high between the regional rivals.

Riyadh broke off ties with Iran in 2016 after protesters invaded Saudi diplomatic posts there.

Saudi Arabia had executed a prominent Shia Muslim scholar days earlier, triggering the demonstrations.

Shia-majority Iran and ​once Wahabi Muslim bastion Saudi Arabia support rival sides in several conflict zones across the Middle East, including in Yemen where ​Iran supports ​​popular upsurge ​against a military coalition ​led by Saudi’s.

But there have been more recent efforts on both sides to warm ties.

In the last couple of years, there had been meetings between Saudi and Iranian officials in Baghdad. The Iraqis started mediation talks back in 2021. Everything stopped during the Iraqi elections of 2021​.​

The Iranian top security official hailed great efforts by Iraq to host five rounds of talks between Tehran and Riyadh​ culminating in the Beijing agreement​.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are on rival sides of a number of regional issues, in countries as varied as ​Iraq, ​Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

Improved relations between Tehran and Riyadh could therefore have an effect on politics across the Middle East.

“The security situation in the region, like in Yemen and Lebanon, deteriorates and suffers when these two countries have differences,” said ​Al-Jazeera.

“With this deal, it is possible that we might start to see compromises in these countries. This deal can lead to the creation of a better security situation in the region. They have a lot of leverage in these countries.”

Adnan Tabatabai, the CEO of the CARPO think tank, told Al Jazeera that China “has a real big interest” in not seeing the regional security situation “descend into chaos”.

“[Like] in 2019, when the waterways of Hormuz were the sites of different explosions and attacks,” he said.

“There are inherent interests for the Chinese to try and use the leverage that they have towards both Tehran and Riyadh to make some efforts to balance these relations and finalise what the Iraqis and Omanis had in fact started.”

China, which recently hosted Iran’s hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi, is also a top purchaser of Saudi oil. President Xi Jinping, just awarded a third five-year term as president earlier on Friday, visited Riyadh in December to attend meetings with oil-rich Gulf Arab nations crucial to China’s energy supplies.

Speaking after signing the agreement, Shamkhani said the negotiations between the two countries were “frank, transparent, and comprehensive.”

“Clearing up the misunderstandings and looking to the future in Tehran-Riyadh relations will definitely lead to the development of regional stability and security and the increase of cooperation between the countries of the Persian Gulf and the Islamic world to manage the existing challenges,” he said.

Referring to the fact that the US played no role in this agreement, ​Al-Jazeera quoted ​Tabatabai ​saying it has been common to hear anti-American sentiments in Iran, but “from at least the fall of 2019 onwards, there is also some disappointment and some increasing skepticism inside Saudi Arabia towards the role of US in that region.

A White House National Security Council spokesperson said the United States is aware of reports that Iran and Saudi Arabia have resumed diplomatic relations, but ​refused further comments.

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