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Iran, Saudi Arabia Sign Joint Statement on Resuming Diplomatic Ties

By Nigar Bayramli April 7, 2023

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Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang shake hands during a meeting in Beijing, China, April 6, 2023. / MFA.gov.ir

Iran and Saudi Arabia are set to restore diplomatic channels within the two-month period stipulated in an agreement facilitated by China in March.

In a joint statement signed by Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and his Saudi counterpart Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud in the Chinese capital city of Beijing on April 6, the two countries agreed to resume flights and bilateral visits after seven years, according to Iran's IRNA news agency.

The statement reiterated points previously made in the March announcement, saying that both sides would reopen embassies and consulates "at an agreed time" and send technical delegations to restart direct flights and facilitate visas, including for Iranians wanting to perform the Umrah pilgrimage.

They also agreed to expand relations in multiple areas and "to remove all obstacles" preventing wide-ranging cooperation between the two countries.

The Iranian foreign minister hailed his "positive" meeting with his Saudi counterpart following the statement.

After years of hostility that fueled conflicts across the Middle East, Tehran and Riyadh agreed to end their diplomatic rift and re-open embassies in a major deal facilitated by China last month.

The first meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries was held on March 10, as China's President Xi Jinping helped broker a surprise deal between regional rivals Tehran and Riyadh to end a seven-year rift and restore diplomatic ties, which displays China's growing influence in the region.

The politically isolated Iranian regime which is hardly affected by US sanctions has heralded the revival of ties with Riyadh as a significant victory and a defeat for the United States in the region.

Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran in January 2016 after its embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad were attacked by protesters angered by the execution of a prominent Shia cleric in the Sunni-majority kingdom. The kingdom then asked Iranian diplomats to leave within 48 hours while it evacuated its embassy staff from Tehran.

Iran supports the Lebanese Hezbollah group and Yemen's Houthi rebels, against whom Saudi Arabia has led a military campaign since March 2015. Saudi Arabia blamed Iran for arming the Houthis, who carried out missile and drone attacks on its cities and oil facilities.

Saudi Arabia had blamed Iran for a 2019 missile and drone assault on its oil plants, a charge Tehran denies. The two countries have also been locked in rivalry for decades, backing allies fighting proxy wars across the region.