In Thaw of Rivalry Iranian Diplomat Given Visa to Work in Saudi Jeddah

Published August 6th, 2018 - 10:43 GMT
Saudi Arabia capital Riyadh. (AFP/ File Photo)
Saudi Arabia capital Riyadh. (AFP/ File Photo)

An Iranian diplomat has been granted a visa to work in a consular office in Jeddah, Saudi media reported on Sunday, in a rare sign of a thaw between the rival powers.

Foreign ministry official Mohammad Alibak has been permitted to serve as head of Iran's Interests Section in the consulate, state news agency IRNA reported. 

There was no immediate confirmation from Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have been at loggerheads since the 1979 Islamic Revolution toppled the shah in Tehran.

The revolution led to threats against the Saudi royal family, while Riyadh backed former Iraq President Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war. 

Tensions have hiked in recent years - particularly under Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - with the two countries fighting a number of proxy wars in Syria and Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has also accused Iran of promoting militants in its Shia-majority Eastern Province and Bahrain.

Tensions spiked in 2016, when a well-known Saudi Shia cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, was executed by Riyadh after being found guilty of supporting "terrorism".

His death led to attacks on Saudi diplomatic compounds in Shia-majority Iran, leading to Riyadh to cut ties with Tehran.

Later in the year, a Saudi court sentenced 15 people to death for allegedly spying for Iran, according to local media. 
Most of them were members of the kingdom's Shia minority.

In May 2016, Tehran banned Iranian citizens from travelling to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj following disagreements regarding a stampede at the previous year's pilgrimage which cost the lives of 2,000 pilgrims - including 464 Iranians. 

Last year, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said there was no room for dialogue with Iran, due to its ambitions "to control the Islamic world".

Meanwhile, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif dismissed any plans for direct confrontation with Saudi Arabia a few months later.

"We don't have to fight; we don't need to fight. We don't need to try to exclude each other from the scene in the Middle East."

In June last year, Switzerland announced it would represent Iranian interests in Saudi Arabia, following the 2016 break in diplomatic relations between the Gulf rivals.

This article has been adapted from its original source.


Copyright @ 2019 The New Arab.

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