Saudi Arabia, Iran discuss reopening diplomatic missions

Published April 9, 2023
Saudi’s Faisal bin Farhan and Iran’s Hossein Amir-Abdollahian met in Beijing on April 6. — AFP
Saudi’s Faisal bin Farhan and Iran’s Hossein Amir-Abdollahian met in Beijing on April 6. — AFP

RIYADH: A Saudi Arabian diplomatic delegation arrived on Saturday in Tehran to discuss the reopening of its diplomatic missions after a seven-year absence, Riyadh’s foreign ministry said.

The visit follows an unprecedented meeting between the foreign ministers of both countries in China this week after they agreed last month to restore diplomatic ties.

Saturday’s visit is part of “implementing the tripartite agreement” reached on March 10 between the two regional powers, brokered by China, to restore relations ruptured in 2016, the Saudi foreign ministry said, cited by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The two longtime Middle East rivals have now pledged to work together.

Omani mediators in Yemen to try to broker new truce

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdol­lahian met in Beijing on Thursday and vowed to bring “security and stability” to the turbulent Gulf region.

On Saturday, a Saudi “technical delegation” met Iran’s chief of protocol at the foreign ministry in Tehran, SPA said.

The two countries severed ties after protesters in the Islamic republic attacked Saudi diplomatic missions following Riyadh’s execution of a prominent cleric.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has been invited by Saudi King Salman to Riyadh, a trip planned to take place after Ramazan.

Yemen truce

Omani mediators arrived in Yemen on Saturday to discuss a new truce between the Iran-backed Houthi rebels and Saudi Arabia, an airport source said, amid renewed moves to end the conflict.

Diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict have multiplied since the Yemeni government’s main foreign backer Saudi Arabia signed a Chinese-brokered deal to restore relations with Iran last month.

The top Saudi and Iranian diplomats met in Beijing, resuming diplomatic relations and pledging to work together to bring “security and stability” to their turbulent region.

Nearly a decade of war in Yemen has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, both directly and indirectly, and triggered what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The Houthis seized the capital Sanaa in 2014, triggering the conflict with the government which has been backed for eight years by a military coalition led by regional heavyweight Riyadh.

The rapprochement between the two great regional rivals, Iran and Saudi Arabia, has fuelled hopes of reduced tensions in the Middle East, particularly in Yemen.

“A delegation from Oman has arrived in Sanaa to hold talks with Houthi leaders about the truce and the peace process,” a source at the capital’s airport, said.

The source said the delegation was accompanied by Mohammed Abdelsalam, the rebels’ chief negotiator, who lives in Muscat.

Oman has forged a reputation as a discreet mediator in Gulf disputes often involving Iran.

Abdelsalam himself tweeted that he had arrived in Sanaa with the Omani delegation, but without providing further details.

The United Nations special envoy on Yemen, Hans Grundberg, was in the Omani capital this week for talks on “the political process”.

A Yemeni government source said that the Saudis and Houthis have agreed in principle on a six-month truce to pave the way for three months of talks on establishing a two-year “transition” for the war-torn country.

The country enjoyed a six-month lull in fighting during a ceasefire last year, but that truce was not renewed after it expired on Oct 2.

Iran views the United States as an arch-enemy, but on Wednesday welcomed a call by the American special envoy for Yemen to back “the political process that we hope is coming”.

Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2023

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