Iran embassy in Riyadh set to reopen after seven years

Tehran says new ambassador Alireza Enayati will be on hand for Tuesday ceremony at compound, shuttered in wake of 2016 attacks on Saudi missions in Iran

Women walk past the closed Iranian embassy in the diplomatic quarter of the Saudi capital Riyadh, on April 11, 2023. (Fayez Nureldine / AFP)
Women walk past the closed Iranian embassy in the diplomatic quarter of the Saudi capital Riyadh, on April 11, 2023. (Fayez Nureldine / AFP)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Iran is set to reopen its embassy in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday following a seven-year closure, Tehran and a diplomatic source said, sealing a Chinese-brokered rapprochement deal announced in March.

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

Iran’s diplomatic mission, which was expelled by Saudi authorities, will return under the leadership of Alireza Enayati, who previously served as Iran’s ambassador to Kuwait.

Tehran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani announced the reopening in a statement Monday, confirming earlier comments by a diplomatic source in Riyadh.

Iran’s embassy in Riyadh, its consulate in Jeddah and its representative office to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) “will be officially reopened on Tuesday and Wednesday,” Kanani said.

The diplomatic source had earlier told AFP that the opening “will take place Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. local time with the presence of the newly appointed Iranian ambassador” to Saudi Arabia.

Smoke rises as Iranian protesters upset over the execution of a Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran, Sunday, January 3, 2016. (Mohammadreza Nadimi/ISNA via AP)

Saudi Arabia has yet to confirm when it will reopen its embassy in Tehran or its pick for ambassador.

Iranian media had named Enayati as the Islamic Republic’s Saudi envoy last month.

He had previously served as assistant to the foreign minister and director general of Gulf affairs at the foreign ministry, according to Iranian reports.

An Iranian woman holding a placard takes part in a demonstration outside the Saudi embassy in Tehran on January 3, 2016, against the execution of prominent Shiite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr by Saudi authorities. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

After years of discord, the two Middle East heavyweights signed a surprise reconciliation agreement in China on March 10.

Since then, Saudi Arabia has restored ties with Tehran ally Syria and ramped up a push for peace in Yemen, where it has for years led a military coalition against the Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

Iran and Saudi Arabia had backed opposing sides in conflict zones across the Middle East for years before mending fences.

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