Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties in China-brokered deal


Regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed on Friday to restore ties and reopen diplomatic missions in talks brokered by China, they said in a joint statement, seven years after ties broke off.

The move caps a broader realignment and efforts to ease tensions in the Middle East.

Riyadh cut ties with Tehran after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions in the Islamic republic in 2016 following the Saudi execution of revered Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

Shiite-majority Iran and Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia support rival factions in several conflict zones across the Middle East, including in Yemen, where Houthi rebels are backed by Tehran, and Riyadh leads a pro-government military coalition.

“After the talks, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have agreed to resume diplomatic relations and reopen embassies and missions within two months,” Iran’s state news agency IRNA said, citing the joint statement.

The official Saudi press agency also carried the statement, which said the talks took place in Beijing for five days immediately before the announcement.

Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, traveled to Beijing on Monday for “intensive negotiations with his Saudi counterpart in China to finally resolve the issues between Tehran and Riyadh,” IRNA said.

Iraq, a neighbor of both countries, had hosted several rounds of talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia since April 2021.

Those meetings were held at a relatively low level, involving security and intelligence officials.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in July that the two countries were ready to take the talks to a higher level, in the political and public spheres.

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But no talks had been publicly announced since April of last year.

mending ties
In Friday’s statement, Iran and Saudi Arabia said they “thank the Republic of Iraq and the Sultanate of Oman for hosting the talks held between the two parties in 2021 and 2022, as well as the leadership and government of the People’s Republic.” China for hosting and supporting the talks taking place in that country.”

“The three countries expressed their enthusiasm for making all efforts to enhance regional and international peace and security,” they said.

Other Gulf states had also reduced their ties with Iran after the 2016 incident.

But in September, Tehran welcomed an Emirati ambassador after a six-year absence. A month earlier, Iran said Kuwait had sent its first ambassador to Iran since 2016.

Another regional split took place in June 2017 when Saudi Arabia and its allies the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar.

They claimed it supported extremists and was too close to Iran, charges Doha denied.

Those ties were mended in January 2021.

On Thursday, Amir-Abdollahian was in Damascus, where he welcomed the Arab outreach to Syria’s internationally isolated government after an earthquake struck Turkey and the war-torn country last month.

He also said Tehran, which has backed Damascus during its 12-year conflict, would join efforts to reconcile Syria and Turkey, which has long supported rebel groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Ties between Riyadh and Ankara have also grown closer since the 2018 assassination of Saudi journalist and government critic Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pushed hard to revive bilateral ties, a move analysts describe as largely driven by economic considerations.

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Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties in China-brokered deal

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