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Saudi Arabia’s New Ambassador in Iran Commences Mission to Restore Full Diplomatic Ties

By Nigar Bayramli September 7, 2023

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Iranian newly-appointed ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Alireza Enayati, was welcomed by the country’s foreign ministry officials as well as Iranian embassy staff in Riyadh on September 5, 2023. / IRNA news agency

Saudi Arabia’s newly appointed ambassador to Iran has arrived in Tehran as part of the efforts to fully restore diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Abdullah bin Saud al-Anzi met with Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran’s Foreign Minister, before heading to the Saudi embassy. During this meeting, he presented his plans for enhancing bilateral relations, as reported by Tasnim News Agency on September 5.

Amir-Abdollahian emphasized the need to strengthen relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia and called for cooperation on both “bilateral and multilateral matters.”

Al-Anzi previously served as Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Oman before his new assignment as envoy to Tehran.

Meanwhile, Iran’s recently appointed ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Alireza Enayati, commenced his mission in Riyadh on September 5. In a meeting held before his departure, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi urged him to “use the available resources” to foster bilateral relations. 

“Cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia and the increased cooperation of regional countries in the bilateral and multilateral levels has raised the profile of the countries of the region,” Raisi said, adding that “such cooperation would reduce the scope for foreign forces to intervene in the region.”

In a meeting with Enayati on September 2, the Iranian foreign minister called on him to “expand the policy of neighborliness and strengthen relations with Saudi Arabia.”

Two days before taking up his post, Enayati told IRNA that “this is the start of a road, and there is a long way ahead of us [if we want] to establish cooperation and then partnership with Saudi Arabia.”

“We have embarked on a path that we believe in, and we think that the development and deepening of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia in multiple spheres... can be completely positive and very impactful in its outcomes.”

He also expressed hope for further progress in bilateral ties in the “political, economic, security, commercial, investment, cultural, popular and tourism spheres, and likewise at the regional and multilateral level.”

The reconciliation process between the two countries began six months ago when they jointly announced an agreement to mend their severed diplomatic relations. Following a mediation effort by China in March, they decided to reestablish diplomatic ties after seven years. Iran reopened its embassy in Riyadh, along with the consulate general and the office to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Jeddah, on June 6 and 7. The Saudi embassy in Tehran was reopened in early August.

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.