Iran, Bahrain agree to discuss restoring ties in latest Gulf-Tehran thaw

Foreign ministers meet on sidelines of summit in Tehran, nearly 8 years after relationship soured over execution of Shiite cleric; move follows Saudi detente with Iran

Iranian demonstrators hold up portraits of the Islamic Republic's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and wave Bahraini flags during a protest after the Friday noon prayer in Tehran on May 18, 2012, held in response to a government call to protest a plan to unite Bahrain with Saudi Arabia that Tehran has said is a US plot. (Atta KENARE / AFP)
Iranian demonstrators hold up portraits of the Islamic Republic's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and wave Bahraini flags during a protest after the Friday noon prayer in Tehran on May 18, 2012, held in response to a government call to protest a plan to unite Bahrain with Saudi Arabia that Tehran has said is a US plot. (Atta KENARE / AFP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran and Bahrain have agreed to launch negotiations on how to restore diplomatic relations that have been severed for nearly eight years, the Iranian foreign ministry said Monday.

Tiny Gulf monarchy Bahrain cut ties with Iran in 2016, following in the footsteps of regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia after Riyadh’s diplomatic missions in Iran were attacked by angry protesters denouncing the Saudi execution of a prominent Shiite Muslim cleric.

Iran’s acting foreign minister, Ali Bagheri, met on Sunday with his Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani on the sidelines of the Asian Cooperation Dialogue summit in Tehran, according to the two countries’ foreign ministries.

“In this meeting, the two sides agreed to create the necessary mechanisms to start the talks between the two countries to examine how to resume political relations,” they said in a joint statement.

The visit by the Bahraini top diplomat was his second in less than a month, after attending the funerals of Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi and foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who died in a helicopter crash in May along with six others.

Shiite-majority Iran and the Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia resumed ties in 2023 in a Chinese-brokered agreement that has shifted regional alliances.

A man in Tehran holds a local newspaper reporting on its front page the China-brokered deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore ties, signed in Beijing the previous day, on March, 11 2023. (ATTA KENARE / AFP)

Iran National Security Council secretary Ali Shamkhani told Iran’s Nour News at the time that the agreement his government inked with Saudi Arabia “will definitely be a serious obstacle to the presence and interference of extra-regional countries and the Zionist regime in the region.”

In 2022, Amir-Abdollahian said his country wanted to boost relations with the United Arab Emirates, welcoming an Emirati ambassador back to Tehran after a six-year absence.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (L) welcomes his Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani at Sde Boker in southern Israel on March 27, 2022, ahead of the Negev Summit. (Jack Guez/AFP)

Bahrain and The United Arab Emirates made peace with Israel in 2020 through the so-called “Abraham Accords,” and Saudi Arabia was considering following suit in return for US security commitments.

But the war against Hamas in Gaza has largely derailed further moves towards peace with Israel.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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