Iran invites Saudi Arabia's King Salman to visit Tehran

Countries hope to reopen their respective diplomatic missions by May 9, Iran's foreign ministry said

King Salman delivers a speech during the annual meeting of Saudi Arabia's Shura Council in Jeddah. AFP
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Iran has formally invited Saudi Arabia's King Salman to visit Tehran following a reconciliation agreement between the two countries last month, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

Saudi Arabia severed relations with Iran in 2016 after its embassy in Tehran and consulate in the Mashhad were attacked during protests over Riyadh's execution of Shiite cleric Nimr Al Nimr.

The two Middle East powerhouses had held several rounds of dialogue in Iraq and Oman before announcing an agreement to mend ties on March 10 in China.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani said President Ebrahim Raisi had "invited the Saudi King to visit Iran".

Mr Kanaani said the Iranian president had already received an invitation to visit the kingdom.

The spokesman also expressed hope that Iran and Saudi Arabia would reopen their respective diplomatic missions by May 9, as scheduled in the China-brokered agreement.

"We and the Saudi side insist on activating the embassies in a very timely manner so that Iranian pilgrims can attend a calm Hajj pilgrimage using the services provided by the embassy," he told a weekly press conference.

The annual pilgrimage to holy sites in Saudi Arabia, one of the pillars of Islam, is expected to begin in late June.

In recent days, delegations from the two countries have visited the embassies in Riyadh and Tehran and consulates in Jeddah and Mashhad to launch the process of their reopening.

On April 6, the Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers, Hossein Amirabdollahian and Prince Faisal bin Farhan, held talks in Beijing on the implementation of normalisation of ties.

"The foreign ministers of the two countries will meet" again before the reopening of the embassies, the spokesman said.

Iran and Saudi Arabia had backed rival sides in conflict zones across the region for years, including in Yemen.

Riyadh led a military coalition that supported the internationally recognised government in the kingdom, while Tehran backed the Houthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa and large areas of the north.

Updated: April 17, 2023, 6:02 PM