RIYADH: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is expected to attend a summit in the Saudi capital on Sunday addressing the ongoing crisis in the Middle East, a source familiar with the preparations said on Monday.

It would be Raisi’s first visit to the Gulf kingdom since the two countries agreed to restore diplomatic relations after seven years of severed ties, a deal brokered by China and announced in March.

The summit is being organised by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a 57-member bloc of majority Muslim countries based in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah.

It is planned to take place one day after an emergency meeting of Arab League leaders on the Gaza situation, also in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

“President Raisi will attend the summit of the OIC in Riyadh,” the source familiar with planning for the summit said on condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to discuss the plans with the media.

Raisi and Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, held their first phone call on Oct 12 in which both men voiced support for the Palestinian cause and, according to Iranian state news agency IRNA, discussed the “need to end war crimes against Palestine”.

Neither country recognises Israel, though before the crisis broke out Saudi Arabia was involved in discussions brokered by the United States about possible normalisation.

Saudi officials are deeply worried about a possible widening of the unrest that could derail Prince Mohammed’s sweeping Vision 2030 reform agenda intended to transition the world’s biggest crude oil exporter away from fossil fuels.

Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2023

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