Iran 'ready' for talks with Saudi Arabia

The Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan has been asked by Washington to help deescalate Middle East tensions

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (R) speaks with ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi in the capital Tehran on June 10, 2019.  / AFP / ATTA KENARE

Iran is ready to hold talks with Saudi Arabia, the country’s Foreign Ministry has said, as the prospect of a mediation between the two countries is raised by Pakistan.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said on Sunday that Tehran was prepared to “talk with its neighbours, including Saudi Arabia, to get rid of any misunderstandings”, ahead of a visit by Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan.

Speaking to the Iranian state broadcaster, Mr Mousavi said he was not aware of Mr Khan’s intention to act as a mediator but explained: “Iran has announced that, with or without a mediator, it is always ready to hold talks”.

Pakistan has confirmed that Mr Khan, who is due to arrive in Tehran on Sunday, has been asked by the US President Donald Trump to help defuse tensions between the two Middle East Rivals.

The Pakistani leader is due to also visit Saudi Arabia next week.

"His mission is to try open negotiations, or some sort of confidence building for the two rival countries to start some talks," one Pakistani official explained.

The reiteration of the Iranian position follows statements from the country’s foreign minister earlier this week indicating Tehran was open to the possibility of talks.

However, while conciliatory statements have come from some quarters, Iran has also continued to make threats as regional tensions continue, focused around the Strait of Hormuz.

A senior Iranian security official said on Saturday that a recent attack on one of the country's oil tankers, which Tehran blames on Saudi Arabia, would not go unpunished.

The mysterious attack damaged two storerooms aboard the tanker, Iranian officials said. Iran said the tanker will arrive at one of its ports in about 10 days.

Saudi Arabia an the US have blamed Tehran for attacks on Saudi oil plants in September, a charge Iran denies. The kingdom has said it prefers a political solution to a military one. The Iranian diplomatic entreaties also follow news of a US troop deployment in the Saudi Arabia to offset Iranian aggression.