Iran Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said this Monday that his country is ready and willing to resume relations with Saudi Arabia.
This Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said that the Islamic Republic is willing to open its arms to Saudi Arabia and resume bilateral relations after years of political tensions.
During the Tehran Dialogue Forum in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran, Amir-Abdollahian told reporters that normalization of relations between the two countries can happen “when Riyadh is willing to”, and that “Tehran is ready to resume diplomatic ties with Riyadh and even reopen embassies,”.
The top Iranian diplomat also expressed readiness for holding a joint meeting with his counterparts from Saudi Arabia as well as other Gulf countries on the sidelines of a regional summit on Iraq in the Jordanian capital Amman.
The above-mentioned summit that is planned to be held on this Tuesday, will be attended by Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt, France, as well as Bahrain and Oman, which will attend the summit as guests.
Iran-Saudi tense relations from past to present
Iran says it has every reason to resent from Saudi Arabia. The Islamic Republic has accused Riyadh of financially supporting the London-based Iran International, a Farsi-language satellite news channel which has been reporting extensively on the protests that erupted in Iran in mid-September. Iran believes the protests are orchestrated by foreign agents, including the U.S. and its regional allies. Also good to mention that the news channel is majority-owned by a Saudi national.
But that’s not all; Iran was also irritated by a joint statement issued after an Arab-China summit in Riyadh last week. In the statement, Saudi Arabia and China said they agreed to “strengthen joint cooperation to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program,” while also calling on Iran to respect “principles of good neighborliness and non-interference in internal affairs of states.”
The rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, however, dates back to 1979, when the Islamic Revolution took place in the former. With a majority Sunni population in Saudi Arabia and a majority Shiite population in Iran, the two have been at odds since then. But bilateral relations worsened after the 2016 execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr by Riyadh, a prominent Shiite cleric put to death in the mass execution of 47 prisoners.
The incident inflamed sectarian tensions in a region and led to massive protests especially in Saudi Arabia and Iran, where demonstrators set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. In solidarity with the Muslims who condemned Saudi Arabia’s move, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said back then that Saudi Arabia would face divine retribution for al-Nemer’s execution.
Efforts to cool down tensions
Saudi Arabia then announced cutting off diplomatic relations with Iran, giving Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the country.
In a bid to improve relations after nearly five years, however, direct talks were launched in April 2021, with Iraq hosting the talks and playing the role of mediator. The mere existence of a dialogue was seen as important, even if the only notable result so far has been Iran reopening the country’s representative office to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in the Saudi city of Jeddah.
But now, with Iran’s Foreign Minister formally inviting Saudi Arabia for resuming relations this Monday, it is hoped that the two come together once again in Bagdad to hold the sixth rounds of talks to possibly end this political dead-end.