Saudi, Iran leaders to meet, signaling thaw in ties

Published March 20th, 2023 - 06:43 GMT
Saudi king invites Iranian president to Riyadh
Raisi welcomed this invitation, according to Jamshidi, and affirmed his country's readiness to enhance bilateral cooperation.

ALBAWABA - Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud invited Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to visit Riyadh, signaling a thaw in relations between the Mideast's rivals.

The invitation follows a historic deal reached between the two countries under the China's auspices on March 10. The agreement ended a seven-year estrangement and set the stage for reviving Tehran's diplomatic ties with Riyadh.

"The visit is a step towards putting differences behind them," said Hazem Ayyad, a political science professor at the University of Jordan.

He told Albawaba in an Interview that mending fences between the two nations "marks an opportunity for Iran to slip out of the sanctions" slapped on it by Western nations, headed by the United States to force Tehran to disclose information on its nuclear weapons program.

International media outlets reported Sunday that Saudi Arabia's king had sent an official invitation to the Iranian president to visit Riyadh and said that the latter accepted it.

Saudi Arabia, in turn, did not confirm the news.

But Mohammad Jamshidi, the Iranian president's deputy chief of staff for political affairs, announced the news in a tweet.

Jamshidi wrote: "Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz welcomed, in a letter addressed to Raisi, the agreement of the two brotherly countries," noting that the king had invited Raisi to visit Riyadh.

Raisi welcomed this invitation, according to Jamshidi, and affirmed his country's readiness to enhance bilateral cooperation.

No information was disclosed on the date of the visit.

Saudi-Iranian foreign ministers expected to meet

In a related development, Iranian Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian said recently that he would meet, in the near future, with his Saudi counterpart.

News reports said the Iranian government also proposed to Saudi Arabia three places to host a meeting that will bring together the foreign ministers of the two countries.

Abdollahian said, in press statements, that his country agreed to hold such a meeting.

However, he did not provide details regarding the three proposed places, or reveal the date of its holding.

Revival of bilateral ties

Developments in Iran's ties with Arab powerhouse Saudi Arabia come after the two countries announced the resumption of diplomatic relations and the reopening of the embassies of the two countries within two months.

The announcement came at a meeting in Beijing, where Chinese mediation played a prominent role in the yearlong negotiations that culminated in the accord.

A trilateral statement by Saudi Arabia, Iran and China said it was agreed that the two former foes respect each other' sovereignty.

It asserted the non-interference in the internal affairs of both countries.

Both nations, according to the agreement, will also work to activate the security cooperation agreement and hold talks on strengthening bilateral relations.

Saudi Arabia severed relations with Iran in 2016, after Iranian protesters stormed its embassy in Tehran.

The two countries are ruled by rival sects of Islam. While Saudi Arabia follows the Sunni doctrine, Iran is ruled by Shiite Islam.

Western speculation that Iran is close to developing a nuclear weapon has sent jitters across much of the Arab world, which is ruled by Sunni Muslim governments anxious to see Shiite Muslims taking the driver seats in the region.

Written by Razan Abdelhadi, with contribution by Albawaba writer Ahmad Shahin.

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