HomeWORLDIran's FM says talks with Saudis could restore ties

Iran’s FM says talks with Saudis could restore ties

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BEIRUT – Talks between regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia are continuing and could eventually restore diplomatic ties severed years ago, Iran’s foreign minister said Friday.

Hossein Amirabdullayan told reporters in Beirut on Friday that he met Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud at a conference in Jordan last month attended by Middle Eastern and European officials. The meeting between Amir Abdullahian and Prince Faisal was the highest-level encounter between the two countries since they severed ties seven years ago.

Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia and Iran, which is majority Shia, have been at odds since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, but relations deteriorated after Riyadh executed Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr in 2016. This incident caused a storm of protest in both countries. Protesters set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran. Diplomatic relations then soured.

Direct talks began in April 2021, mediated by Iraq, with the aim of improving relations. The mere existence of a dialogue was seen as important, even if the only significant result so far was Iran reopening the country’s representative office to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

“In our view there is an agreement on continuing the Saudi-Iran dialogue that will eventually normalize relations between the two countries,” Amirabdullahian said of his meeting with his Saudi counterpart in Jordan in December.

“We welcome the restoration of normal relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Amirabdullahian said. Hopefully, he added, “we have finally reached (an agreement) on the reopening of diplomatic missions and embassies in Riyadh and Tehran.”

Amirabdullahian praised the contacts between Syrian and Turkish officials, saying that such talks would have a positive impact on the interests of the two countries.

Turkish and Syrian defense ministers held talks in Moscow in late December, marking the first ministerial meeting between Damascus and Ankara since ties broke down more than 11 years ago with the start of Syria’s civil war.

Turkey and Syria are on opposing sides of the Syrian conflict, with Turkey supporting rebels trying to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad. Damascus, for its part, has condemned Turkey’s occupation of swaths of northern Syria that have been captured in a series of military offensives since 2016 to drive out Kurdish militant groups.

In his first comments on the Turkish-Syrian dialogue, Assad said in a statement from his office on Friday after a meeting with Russian presidential envoy to Syria Alexander Lavrentiev that Russia-backed talks should aim to “stop support for occupation and terrorism.”

Assad has been citing Turkey’s support for rebel groups since the conflict began in March 2011 and has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

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