Saudi Arabia says deal with Iran does not mean consensus on all issues but dialogue is key

Riyadh and Tehran's announcement that they will resume diplomatic relations, previously broken off in 2016, comes after about two years of backroom talks

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan says he is looking forward to meeting his Iranian counterpart soon. Reuters
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The Saudi-Iranian agreement brokered by China on the return of diplomatic relations does not mean consensus will be met on all issues, but differences will be addressed through dialogue, the kingdom's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan has said.

“Our arrival at this agreement, which will lead to the resumption of political relations, does not mean that we have reached a resolution to all outstanding differences between our two countries, but rather is evidence of our common desire to solve them through talks and dialogue with peaceful means and diplomatic tools,” Prince Faisal told Asharq Al Awsat in remarks published on Sunday.

“We, in the kingdom, hope to open a new page with Iran and enhance the prospects for co-operation in a way that reflects positively on the consolidation of security and stability, and the advancement of development and prosperity, not only in our two countries but in the region as a whole.”

Saudi Arabia and Iran's announcement on Friday that they would resume diplomatic relations broken off in 2016 comes after about two years of backroom talks.

Dialogue began in early 2021 in Baghdad, the only publicly confirmed venue for the negotiations until the agreement to resume ties was announced in Beijing.

Riyadh cut ties with Tehran in 2016 after protesters attacked the Saudi embassy and consulate following the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric in the kingdom.

The Saudi Foreign Minister said he was looking forward to meeting his Iranian counterpart soon, based on what was agreed upon.

“We are preparing to resume diplomatic relations between our two countries during the next two months, and it is natural in the future to exchange visits,” Prince Faisal said.

When asked to comment on the continuing protests and civil unrest in Iran, Prince Faisal declined to comment as it was an “internal affair”.

Saudi Arabia and Iran agree to re-establish relations

Iran and Saudi Arabia will reopen embassies and consulates within the next two months.

“Iran is a neighbouring country and its stability and development [are] in the interest of the region as a whole and we, in Saudi Arabia, we wish only the good,” he said.

With regard to Iran's development of its nuclear capabilities, Prince Faisal said the issue was, “undoubtedly, an anxious” one.

“We repeat our call to empty the Gulf region of arms and weapons of mass destruction,” he said.

“We call on Iran to commit to implementing its nuclear obligations and intensifying its co-operation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and we will continue to work with allies and friends to ensure this.”

On Sunday, Prince Faisal repeated Riyadh’s key role as mediator in the war between Russia and Ukraine.

“The kingdom has focused on highlighting the importance of meeting the urgent humanitarian needs that were affected by the continuation of the war, and our humanitarian aid to Ukraine came in response to this,” he said.

“The situation requires both sides, and the international community, to stop the dangerous escalation that affected the two countries and the security of Europe, and weakened the level of international co-operation.”

In September, Russia released 10 prisoners of war captured in Ukraine after diplomatic mediation efforts led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Updated: March 13, 2023, 10:56 AM