Iran says ‘good atmosphere’ in talks with Saudi Arabia on restoring ties

Tehran foreign ministry says teams meeting with the hope of reaching ‘common understanding’ on establishing diplomatic relations between the ‘two great Islamic countries’

Iran President Hassan Rouhani (L) and Saudi Arabia King Salman. (AP)
Iran President Hassan Rouhani (L) and Saudi Arabia King Salman. (AP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s foreign ministry said Monday that the Islamic Republic is continuing talks with regional rival Saudi Arabia in a “good atmosphere,” in the hope of reaching a “common understanding.”

Media reports last month revealed that Iranian and Saudi officials met in Baghdad in April, their first high-level meeting since Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Tehran in 2016.

“Talks are still continuing in a good atmosphere,” ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said at a press conference.

“We hope these talks can achieve a common understanding between Iran and Saudi Arabia,” he added.

Ties between the two countries were cut in 2016 after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions following the kingdom’s execution of a revered Shiite cleric.

The talks in Baghdad, facilitated by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi, remained secret until the Financial Times reported that a first meeting was held on April 9.

Khatibzadeh confirmed the talks on May 10, saying their purpose was “both bilateral and regional,” but stressed it was “too soon” to disclose any details.

“De-escalation and [establishing] salaman ties between two great Islamic countries in the Persian Gulf region is to the benefit of both nations,” he said at the time.

Iran in late April welcomed a “change of tone” from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after he called for a “good and special relationship” with Tehran.

The regional rivals have backed opposite sides of several regional conflicts, from Syria to Yemen, where a Saudi-led military coalition is fighting the Houthi rebels. Iran backs the Houthis, who are battling the coalition that intervened in Yemen’s war in support of an internationally recognized government in 2015.

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