Officials of Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed this Friday to restore bilateral relations and declared the reopening of embassies within two months.
After months of negotiations, the last round of which were held in China this Friday, Iran and Saudi Arabia announced of their intention to resume diplomatic ties and reopen embassies within the next two months.
Ali Shamkhani, Iran’s secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Saudi Arabia’s national security adviser Musaad bin Mohammed al-Aiban, and Wang Yi, China’s most senior diplomat, were the representative of the three countries, with China playing the role of the mediator.
“After implementing the decision, the foreign ministers of both nations will meet to prepare for an exchange of ambassadors,” Iranian state television reported this Friday, showing images and videos of the three diplomats during negotiations in Beijing.
The Saudi Press Agency also confirmed the news and published the joint statement from Saudi Arabia and Iran, which said the two countries had “agreed to respect state sovereignty and not interfere in each other’s internal affairs.”
The statement also said that Riyadh and Tehran had “agreed to activate a security cooperation agreement signed in 2001,” and that the two parts, along with Beijing “expressed their keenness to exert all efforts towards enhancing regional and international peace and security”.
China, for its part, welcomed the agreement, with its senior diplomat Wang Yi offering “whole-hearted congratulations” on the two countries’ wisdom. “Both sides have displayed sincerity, and China fully supports this agreement and will continue to play a constructive role in handling hotspot issues and demonstrate responsibility as a major nation,” he said.
The diplomatic rapprochement is in fact the result of several visits between high-ranking officials suring the past few weeks. Last month, for example, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visited Beijing, and Chinese President Xi Jinping was in Riyadh in December to attend meetings with oil-rich Gulf Arab nations crucial to China’s energy supplies. China is a top purchaser of Saudi oil.
The move will have positive results for both sides, analysts say
Political and economic experts believe that both Iran and Saudi Arabia will benefit from de-escalation, because Iran seeks to neutralize US sanctions as well as its efforts to isolate Iran in the region, and Saudi Arabia tries to focus on economic development.
“Riyadh had been seeking security guarantees from the Iranians. Iran may also have responded positively to Riyadh’s calls for it to actively push the Houthis to sign a peace agreement with Saudi Arabia that frees the Saudis from the Yemen war and also gives Iran a venue for economic cooperation with the Kingdom,” says Cinzia Bianco, research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
China’s growing influence in the region; a nightmare for Washington
Immediately after the announcement of restoration of ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby held a press conference and told reporters that Saudi Arabia had kept the United States informed about the talks in Beijing but Washington had not been directly involved.
“This is not about China. We support any effort to de-escalate tensions in the region. We think that’s in our interests, and it’s something that we worked on through our own effective combination of deterrence and diplomacy,” Kirby said.
The truth, however, is that beyond such positive statements, Washington has every reason to be deeply worried when it sees the growing influence of China in a region which was long dominated and run by American policies. After all, China has, in recent years, become the biggest economic and political rival for the US.