Iran, Saudi Arabia agree to restore ties after Chinese mediation


BEIRUT — Saudi Arabia and Iran announced a deal in China on Friday to resume ties more than seven years after severing ties, a major breakthrough in a rivalry that has shaped the Middle East.

The deal is the result of talks in Beijing that began on Monday as part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s initiative to “develop good neighborly relations” between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the three said. country in a joint statement. China said it welcomed the talks in light of a “desire [by both] resolve the differences between them through dialogue and diplomacy within the framework of the fraternal ties that unite them”.

Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties with Iran in 2016 after the Saudi embassy in Tehran was attacked and burned down by Iranian protesters, angered by the kingdom’s execution of prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqr al-Nimr. The cleric had become a leading figure in protests in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, a Shia-majority region of the Sunni-majority nation.

Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of sowing discord in its minority Shia communities, which have long complained of discrimination and neglect by authorities in Riyadh. A month after Nimr’s execution, the kingdom tried 32 people accused of spying for Iran, including 30 Saudi Shiites. Fifteen were eventually sentenced to death.

In the years since, Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of supplying weapons to the Houthis, Shiite rebels in neighboring Yemen who have waged a bitter war against a Saudi-led coalition seeking to restore the government of country backed by the West.

Tensions reached new heights in 2019 after a wave of Houthi drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities knocked out half of the kingdom’s oil production. At the time, US officials said they believed the assault was launched from Iranian territory. Tehran has denied any involvement.

Iran’s strategic use of drones and missiles rattles Middle Eastern rivals

“The Saudis almost certainly expect to see a reduction in lethal aid to the Houthis,” said Jonathan Lord, senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington.

The two countries had been exploring a rapprochement since 2021, participating in talks hosted by Iraq and Oman.

“The return to normal relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Saudi Arabia places great capabilities at the disposal of both countries, the region and the Islamic world,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian tweeted on Friday. .

For Tehran, the deal comes at a time of deepening international isolation. “Faced with an impasse in nuclear negotiations with the United States, and shunned by the European Union because of its arms exports to Russia…Iran has won a major diplomatic victory,” Ali said. Alfoneh, senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.

Saudi Arabia is increasingly concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and is also considering diplomatic normalization with long-time foe Israel. During the Trump years, Israel began normalizing relations with Persian Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, under the US-backed Abraham Accords.

Building on agreements with Saudi Arabia is a priority for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has spoken of “widening the circle of peace” in the region to counter Iran.

China’s highly publicized role in the deal was likely meant to send a message to major powers, including the United States, “that the hub of the Middle East is changing and that regional powers are looking to other peers to invest in,” Maria said. Luisa Fantappie, Special Advisor for the Middle East and North Africa at the Center for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva.

Friday’s tripartite statement, signed by senior Iranian security official Ali Shamkhani and Saudi national security adviser Musaed bin Mohammed al-Aiban, said embassies would be reopened within two months and stressed the importance for both countries to respect each other’s sovereignty and not interfere in each other. internal affairs of the other. He added that the foreign ministers of the countries would meet to organize the reopening of diplomatic missions.

The agreement also provided that a security cooperation agreement, signed in 2001, would be revived, as would a 1998 agreement on trade, economy, investment, technology, culture and science.

Louisa Loveluck in London, Dan Lamothe in Washington and Babak Dehghanpisheh in Phoenix contributed to this report

Leave a Comment