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Iranian and Saudi envoys meet in China as ties resume

humans, male Reuters/Iran Foreign Ministry/West Asia News Agency
Foreign ministers Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (Iran), Qin Gang (China) and Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud (Saudi Arabia) shake hands in Beijing
  • End to rift may ease conflicts and boost security
  • Embassies and consulates to be reopened within two months
  • Delegations to examine ways for further cooperation

The foreign ministers of Iran and Saudi Arabia met in Beijing  on Thursday for the first formal gathering of their top diplomats in more than seven years.

The meeting was ahead of moves to resume travel, official and economic ties between the Middle East’s top powers.

China brokered a deal last month to restore relations between the two countries, after years of hostility that fuelled conflicts across the region.

In brief footage broadcast on Iranian state TV, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amirabdollahian, greeted each other before sitting down side by side, according to Reuters.

Saudi Arabia and Iran, the Gulf’s dominant Sunni Muslim and Shi’ite Muslim powers respectively, said in a joint statement they would launch arrangements to reopen embassies and consulates.

“The technical teams will examine ways of expanding cooperation, including the resumption of flights and bilateral visits of official and private sector delegations and facilitating the granting of visas for the citizens of the two countries,” they said.

In a tweet, Iran’s Amirabdollahian said the Thursday meeting with his Saudi counterpart was “positive,” adding “the emphasis on stability and sustainable security” were among the issues agreed upon and “on the common agenda,” according to Reuters.

In March, Chinese President Xi Jinping helped to broker the surprise deal that demonstrated Beijing’s growing influence in the Middle East. The breakthrough shook up dynamics in a region where the US has for decades been the main mediator.

“Improved Saudi-Iran relations lowers one of the main geopolitical risks facing the region and this could be beneficial for the overall investment climate,” chief economist at Oxford Economics Middle East Scott Livermore told AGBI last month.

Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran in 2016 after its embassy in Tehran was stormed during a dispute over Riyadh’s execution of a Shi’ite cleric.

The relationship began worsening a year earlier, after Saudi Arabia and the UAE intervened in Yemen’s war, where the Iran-aligned Houthi movement had ousted a Saudi-backed government and taken over the capital Sanaa.