TEHRAN: After seven years of severed relations, regional foes Iran and Saudi Arabia have agreed to restore ties and reopen diplomatic missions in talks brokered by China, as announced in a joint statement on Friday. The move signals a broader realignment towards easing tensions in the Middle East. The rift between Riyadh and Tehran deepened in 2016, when Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions in the Islamic republic following the Saudi execution of revered cleric Nimr al-Nimr.
The two countries support opposing sides in various conflict zones in the Middle East, including Yemen, where the Huthi rebels are backed by Tehran, while Riyadh leads a military coalition supporting the government. The Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia agreed to resume diplomatic relations and reopen embassies and missions within two months, as per the joint statement. The talks, which took place for five days in Beijing, were led by Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, who travelled to China for intensive negotiations with his Saudi counterpart.
Iraq, which shares borders with both countries, had hosted several rounds of talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia since April 2021, involving security and intelligence officials. Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian had indicated in July that the two countries were ready to elevate talks to a higher level, in the political and public spheres. However, no talks had been publicly announced since April last year.