Iran and Saudi Arabia agree to restore diplomatic relations

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (Caasimada Online) – Iran and Saudi Arabia, regional adversaries for decades, have agreed to restore diplomatic relations and reopen their respective embassies and missions, according to a joint statement released on Friday.  

The announcement comes seven years after the two countries severed their ties. The talks were brokered by China and held for five days before the announcement. 

The agreement is part of a broader realignment in the Middle East as countries seek to ease tensions and resolve conflicts.  

The severing of diplomatic ties occurred after Saudi Arabia executed Nimr al-Nimr, a Shiite cleric, in 2016. This led to protests in Iran, during which Saudi diplomatic missions were attacked.  

Iran and Saudi Arabia support opposing sides in various regional conflicts, including Yemen, where Tehran backs the Houthi rebels. At the same time, Riyadh leads a military coalition supporting the Yemeni government. 

China steps-up

In the joint statement, the two countries expressed their gratitude to Iraq and Oman for hosting talks between the two sides in 2021 and 2022, respectively.  

They also thanked the leaders and government of China for hosting and supporting the recent talks. The statement said the three countries were committed to working towards regional and international peace and security. 

Iraq has hosted talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia since April 2021 involving security and intelligence officials. 

In July, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian expressed his willingness to move talks to a higher level in the political and public spheres. However, the last time any talks were publicly announced was April last year. 

The mending of ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia follows similar moves by other Gulf states.  

Iran and Gulf rapprochement  

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

The Gulf region witnessed another rupture in June 2017 when Saudi Arabia and its allies cut ties with Qatar, alleging that it supported extremists and was too close to Iran. These ties were restored in January 2021.

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

He also said Tehran 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 undergone a rapprochement since the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in 2018.

Restoring diplomatic ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia is significant as it could help reduce regional tensions.  

The move also comes at a time when countries in the Middle East are looking for ways to address shared challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic, economic instability, and security threats.  

While it remains to be seen how the two countries will build on this agreement, the restoration of diplomatic ties is a step towards greater cooperation and stability in the region.