Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed on Friday to re-establish relations after years of hostility that had threatened stability and security in the Gulf and helped fuel conflicts in the Middle East from Yemen to Syria.
The deal, brokered by China, was announced after four days of previously undisclosed talks in Beijing between top security officials from the two rival Middle East powers. Tehran and Riyadh agreed to resume diplomatic relations and re-open embassies within two months, according to a statement issued by Iran, Saudi Arabia and China. The agreement includes their affirmation of the respect for the sovereignty of states and the non-interference in internal affairs, it said.
Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran in 2016 after its embassy in Tehran was stormed during a dispute between the two countries over Riyadhs execution of a Shiite Muslim cleric. The kingdom also has blamed Iran for missile and drone attacks on its oil facilities in 2019 as well as attacks on tankers in Gulf waters. Iran denied the charges.
Yemens Iran-aligned Houthi movement has also carried out cross-border missile and drone attacks into Saudi Arabia, which leads a coalition fighting the Houthis, and in 2022 extended the strikes to the United Arab Emirates.
Fridays agreement, signed by Irans top security official, Ali Shamkhani, and Saudi Arabian national security adviser Musaed bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, agreed to re-activate a 2001 security cooperation accord, as well as another earlier pact on trade, economy and investment.
Long at odds, Iran and Saudi Arabia, respectively the two leading Shiite and Sunni Muslim powers in the Middle East, have backed opposite sides in proxy wars from Yemen to Syria and elsewhere.
Analysts say both sides stand to benefit from de-escalation, as Iran seeks to undercut U. S. efforts to isolate it in the region and Saudi Arabia tries to focus on economic development.
Fellow Gulf states the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait welcomed restored Saudi-Iranian ties, as did Iraq, Egypt and Turkey. Further regional instability is not in Saudi or Iranian interest at the moment, said Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a political scientist at Rice
University’s Baker Institute in the United States. And for the Chinese to have addressed this at a time when the U. S. stance toward Iran is becoming more hawkish sends a powerful signal in itself.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian hinted at more to come. The neighborhood policy, as the key axis of the Iranian governments foreign policy, is strongly moving in the right direction and the diplomatic apparatus is actively behind the preparation of more regional steps.
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