TEHRAN: Iran’s foreign ministry said on Sunday a delegation will visit Saudi Arabia by Friday to pave the way for reopening its diplomatic missions there following a similar move by Riyadh.

The announcement comes a day after a Saudi delegation arrived in Tehran on a similar diplomatic trip, and follows a historic meeting between the two Gulf countries’ foreign ministers in China.

“We are expecting a foreign ministry delegation to visit Saudi Arabia” by Friday, Deputy Foreign Minister Alireza Enayati said in an interview with state television.

“Two separate delegations will go to Riyadh and Jeddah”, ahead of reopening Iran’s embassy and consulate respectively.

The two countries have pledged to bring back security and stability to the turbulent Gulf

Saudi Arabia severed relations with Iran in January 2016, after its embassy in Tehran and consulate in the north-western city of Mashhad were attacked by protesters demonstrating over Riyadh’s execution of cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan met in the Chinese capital on Thursday after Tehran and Riyadh agreed last month to restore diplomatic ties.

In a joint statement, the ministers pledged to bring back security and stability to the turbulent Gulf.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have backed rival sides in conflict zones across the region, including in Yemen.

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

Riyadh leads a military coalition that supports the internationally recognised government in the Arabian Peninsula country, while Tehran backs the Houthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa and large areas of the north.

The two Middle East powerhouses had held several rounds of dialogue in Iraq and Oman before reaching the agreement in Beijing, negotiated over five days between Iran’s secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani and his Saudi counterpart Musaad bin Mohammad Al-Aiban.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2023

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