Saudi foreign minister in Iran amid warming ties

Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat has arrived in the Iranian capital, Tehran, in the latest move to restoring diplomatic ties between the erstwhile regional rivals.

By Associated Press

Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat arrived in Iran’s capital on Saturday, the latest step in the restoration of diplomatic ties between the two Mideast rivals, Iranian state media reported.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan was officially welcomed by his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amirabdollahian, Iran TV said. He carried a message from the Saudi king to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and the two were due to meet later Saturday, Iran TV said.

Later, Prince Faisal said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and King Salman officially invited Raisi to visit Saudi Arabia, according to the state TV broadcast of a joint news conference.

The visit comes after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Saudi Arabia earlier in June. In March, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to reestablish diplomatic relations and reopen embassies after seven years of tensions.

Prince Faisal is expected to officially inaugurate the kingdom’s embassy in Tehran later Saturday. Until the mission is completed, the employees are working from a Tehran hotel, Iran TV said.

Both nations reopened their diplomatic missions in recent weeks.

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The agreement to reestablish diplomatic relations was a major breakthrough brokered by China, lowering the chances of further conflict between Riyadh and Tehran — both directly and in proxy conflicts around the region.

Iran has been blamed for a series of attacks in recent years following the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018. One of those targeted the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry in 2019, temporarily halving the kingdom’s crude production.

Relations between the predominately Shiite Iran and the majority Sunni Saudi Arabia have long been tense. The kingdom broke ties with Iran in 2016 after protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic posts there. Saudi Arabia had executed a prominent Shiite cleric along with 46 others days earlier, triggering the demonstrations.

Amirabdollahian said at the news conference that the two sides discussed cooperating on regional security and other topics. “We voiced our concern about the continuation of war in Sudan and discussed some regional and international topics of interest,” he said.