TEHRAN: Regional adversaries Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed Friday in Chinese-mediated negotiations to restore ties and reopen diplomatic offices, they said in a joint statement, seven years after contacts were cut.

The move is part of a larger realignment and attempt to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East.

Riyadh severed relations with Tehran when Iranian protestors assaulted Saudi diplomatic offices in Iran in 2016 in response to the Saudi death of respected cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

Iran and Saudi Arabia back opposing factions in various crisis zones throughout the Middle East, including Yemen, where Tehran backs Huthi rebels and Riyadh leads a military coalition backing the government.

“After discussions, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia decided to restart diplomatic ties and reopen embassies and posts within two months,” Iran’s official news agency IRNA said, quoting the joint statement.

The statement was also released by the Saudi News Agency, which said that conversations took occurred in Beijing for five days prior to the announcement.

The secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, arrived in Beijing on Monday for “intense consultations with his Saudi counterpart in China to ultimately address the concerns between Tehran and Riyadh,” according to IRNA.

Since April 2021, Iraq, both nations’ neighbours, has hosted many rounds of discussions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

These interactions took place at a low level, with security and intelligence officers present.

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, said in July that the two nations were ready to take their negotiations to a higher level, both politically and publicly.

Yet, no public announcements of discussions have been made since April of last year.

repairing ties
Iran and Saudi Arabia said in a joint statement on Friday that they “thank the Republic of Iraq and the Sultanate of Oman for hosting the talks between the two sides in 2021 and 2022, as well as the leaders and government of the People’s Republic of China for hosting and supporting the talks held in that country.”

“The three nations emphasised their desire to make every effort to improve regional and worldwide peace and security,” they stated.

After the 2016 incident, several Gulf governments reduced their connections with Iran.

But, after a six-year absence, Tehran welcomed an Emirati ambassador back in September. A month ago, Iran said that Kuwait had sent its first ambassador to Iran since 2016.

Another regional schism occurred in June 2017, when Saudi Arabia and its allies, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt, severed relations with Qatar.

They alleged Doha sponsored radicals and was too close to Iran, both of which Qatar rejected.

These bonds were severed in January 2021.

Amir-Abdollahian was in Damascus on Thursday, when he praised Arab outreach to Syria’s globally isolated government in the aftermath of an earthquake that rocked Turkey and the war-torn country last month.

He also said that Iran, which has backed Damascus during the conflict’s 12 years, will join attempts to reconcile Syria and Turkey, which has long supported rebel groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

With the assassination of Saudi writer and government critic Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in 2018, relations between Riyadh and Ankara have improved.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has worked hard to re-establish bilateral relations, a move that observers say is primarily motivated by economic motives.

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