Saudi Arabia and Iran have agreed to end their seven-year rift and restore diplomatic ties as part of a Chinese-mediated deal aimed at reducing tensions in the oil-rich region.
The agreement, reached on Friday following a meeting in Beijing, will lead to the reopening of the countries’ diplomatic missions within two months as well as the activation of security co-operations, they said in a joint statement.
Saudi Arabia and Iran ended ties in 2016 after Iranian protesters angered by the execution of a Shia cleric stormed the kingdom’s mission. Three years later, Saudi Arabia and western countries accused Iran of engineering a drone attack on a Saudi oil facility that temporarily knocked out half of its production.
Riyadh has also accused Iran of backing Houthi rebels in Yemen that it has been battling for more than seven years. The joint statement made no mention of the conflict there, but diplomats and analysts say there has been progress in peace talks.
The agreement underscored China’s growing clout in the region. Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, who was in Beijing to negotiate the deal, said the groundwork was laid during a meeting last month between President Ebrahim Raisi and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing.
“The visit . . . paved the way for new and very serious negotiations between Iranian and Saudi delegations,” Shamkhani told state-run Nournews. “Talks [between Iran and Saudi Arabia] were direct, transparent, comprehensive and constructive. Addressing misunderstandings and looking at the future can help develop stability and regional security.”
Iran and Saudi Arabia had previously held several rounds of talks hosted by Iraq and Oman, he added.
Xi also visited Saudi Arabia late last year to attend summits with Arab leaders, a move that was aimed at showcasing Beijing’s broader ambitions in the Middle East.
Tensions between Riyadh and Tehran escalated last year as Iran was rocked by mass protests, with the authorities there accusing Saudi-funded media of inciting the unrest. Western intelligence services around this time also picked up chatter of a possible Iranian attack on Saudi Arabia, according to diplomats. The US said a show of force had prompted Iran to reconsider its plans.
Saudi Arabia and neighbouring United Arab Emirates, which led the military intervention in Yemen, have come under attack from Houthis in Yemen who have targeted oil facilities and airports.
Riyadh also stood on the opposite side to Iran in Syria, where the kingdom backed rebel groups against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Iran and Russia supported Assad, who has regained much of the country from the opposition.
Read the full article here