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Iran FM Says Tehran to Continue Improving Ties with Riyadh

By Nigar Bayramli June 13, 2024

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Iran and Saudi Arabia pledged to restore ties and end seven years of animosity under a China-brokered deal in March 2023. / Daily Sabah

Iranian Acting Foreign Minister Ali Baqeri Kani has underlined Tehran's will to continue developing relations with Saudi Arabia.

"We are sure that the will of Iran and Saudi Arabia is to consolidate and strengthen all-round relations, and this will influence all aspects of relations between the two countries," Baqeri Kani said in a meeting with his Saudi counterpart Faisal bin Farhan, on the sidelines of the BRICS ministerial meeting in Russia on June 11, according to the ISNA news agency.

The Iranian acting foreign minister hailed the "forward path" in bilateral relations set by the late President Ebrahim Raisi, saying that "cooperation and solidarity" between the two countries would benefit stability and security in the entire region.

Referring to the Gaza war, he called for coordinated action between Muslim countries and a "serious and effective response" to Israel's "aggression and crimes".

Baqeri Kani also expressed his appreciation for Saudi efforts to host Iranians for the annual Hajj pilgrimage and called for better facilities for his country's pilgrims.

For his turn, the Saudi foreign minister praised the role of the late Iranian president and foreign minister who died in a helicopter crash on May 19, in establishing good relations, saying that "efforts to pursue and strengthen strong relations between the two countries guarantee stability and security in the region."

On May 29, Saudi Arabia expelled six Iranian journalists on a minor Hajj pilgrimage (umrah), including a journalist for the Iranian state broadcaster (IRIB) and another for state broadcaster's pan-Arab Al-Alam TV. A team of three Iranian documentary filmmakers was detained on May 21 at the main mosque of the Islamic holy city of Medina. The journalists of Al-Alam, the IRIB and a radio producer were also detained two days later.

Talking about the incident, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Nasser Kanani said on June 10 that diplomatic authorities from the two countries were in contact from the outset of the incident, but that despite Tehran's efforts the journalists were expelled.

"In this regard, the Saudi authorities presented reasons that we considered to be a misunderstanding," Kanani added.

Iran and Saudi Arabia pledged to restore ties and end seven years of animosity under a China-brokered deal in March 2023. Iran reopened its embassy in Riyadh, along with the consulate general and the representative office at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Jeddah, in June 2023, while the Saudi embassy in Tehran reopened two months later.

The reconciliation process between the two countries began in 2023 when they jointly announced an agreement to mend their severed diplomatic relations. Following a mediation effort by China in March 2023, they decided to reestablish diplomatic ties after seven years.

Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties with Iran in January 2016 after protesters in Iran attacked its embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad in response to the execution of top cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia. Riyadh then demanded that Iranian diplomats leave the country within 48 hours and evacuated its embassy staff from Tehran.

Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of arming the Houthi rebels in Yemen, whom Saudi Arabia has been fighting in a military campaign since March 2015. The Houthi rebels have conducted missile and drone attacks on Saudi cities and oil facilities. In 2019, Saudi Arabia attributed a missile and drone assault on its oil plants to Iran, a claim that Tehran denies. These two countries have been engaged in a longstanding rivalry, supporting allies in proxy wars across the region for decades.