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Iran and Saudi Arabia agree to restore relations

According to Iranian and Saudi state media, Iran and Saudi Arabia have agreed to strengthen diplomatic relations and reopen their embassies within two months.

The deal was reached during talks in Beijing on Friday.

Iranian state media posted images and videos of Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, with Saudi national security adviser Musaad bin Mohammed al-Aiban and Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat.

“After implementation of the decision, the foreign ministers of both countries will meet to prepare an exchange of ambassadors,” Iran’s state television said.

In the images broadcast by the Iranian media, Wang offered “congratulations” on the “wisdom” of the two countries.

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

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

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

Riyadh, Tehran and Beijing “expressed their readiness to make every effort to improve regional and international peace and security,” the statement said.

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

“Removing misunderstandings and forward-looking views in relations between Tehran and Riyadh will surely lead to improving regional stability and security, as well as increasing cooperation between the Persian Gulf countries and the world of Islam to overcome the current challenges face,” Shamkhani said.

Wang said China will continue to play a constructive role in solving hotspot problems and show responsibility as a great country.

As a “good faith” and “reliable” mediator, China has faithfully fulfilled its duties as a host for dialogue, he said.

Tensions between the regional rivals have been high for some time.

Riyadh cut ties with Tehran in 2016 after protesters raided Saudi diplomatic posts in Iran. Saudi Arabia had executed a prominent Shia Muslim scholar days earlier, prompting the demonstrations.

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

But both sides have recently tried to improve ties.

“In recent years there have been meetings between Saudi and Iranian officials in Baghdad,” Al Jazeera’s Ali Hashem said while reporting from Tehran. “The Iraqis started mediation talks in 2021. Everything stopped during the 2021 Iraqi elections.”

“After five rounds of talks, no news came out,” he said. “Security meetings also took place in Oman. They were mainly focused on the situation in Yemen.”

In addition to the war in Yemen, Iran and Saudi Arabia are also on rival sides in Lebanon and Syria. Improved relations between Tehran and Riyadh could therefore have an effect on politics throughout the Middle East.

“The security situation in the region, such as in Yemen and Lebanon, is deteriorating and is suffering from the differences of opinion between these two countries,” Hashem said.

“With this deal, it’s possible that we’re going to see compromises in these countries,” he said. “This deal can lead to the creation of a better security situation in the region. They have a lot of influence in these countries.”

Adnan Tabatabai — CEO of the Center for Applied Research in Partnership with the Orient, a German-based think tank — told Al Jazeera that China has a strong interest in not seeing the regional security situation “sink into chaos,” as “in 2019, when the waterways of Hormuz were the sites of several explosions and attacks.”

“There are inherent interests for the Chinese in trying to use the leverage they have over both Tehran and Riyadh to put some effort into balancing these relations and finishing what the Iraqis and Omanis had basically started Tabatabai said.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visited Beijing last month and Chinese President Xi Jinping was in Riyadh in December to attend meetings with oil-rich Gulf Arab states critical to China’s energy supply. China is one of the largest buyers of Saudi oil.

A White House National Security Council spokesman said the United States is aware of reports that Iran and Saudi Arabia have resumed diplomatic ties, but has referred further details to the Saudis.

“We generally welcome all efforts to help end the war in Yemen and de-escalate tensions in the Middle East,” the spokesman told Reuters news agency. “De-escalation and diplomacy along with deterrence are key pillars of the policies President (Joe) Biden outlined during his visit to the region last year.”

Referring to the US playing no role in this agreement, Tabatabai said it is common to hear anti-US sentiment in Iran, but “from at least fall 2019 there has also been some disappointment and some growing skepticism within Saudi Arabia.” Arabia versus the role of the US in that region.

“The security umbrella is no longer a real idea that the US had to build for Saudi Arabia and its allies, so Saudi Arabia too felt the need to think differently about how it can protect its territory, borders and security. to secure. interests.”