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Saudi and Iranian experts hold ‘security dialogue’ in Amman

Rivals said to discuss missile threats and cooperation on nuclear fuels, but Riyadh’s envoy to UN says Tehran is just ‘playing games’ with its regional diplomacy

This photo released Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021, by the Iranian Army, shows a missile being fired during a military drill at an undisclosed location in Iran. (Iranian Army via AP)
Illustrative: This photo released October 12, 2021, by the Iranian Army, shows a missile being fired during a military drill at an undisclosed location in Iran. (Iranian Army via AP)

Regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran sent experts to hold talks on security issues and cooperation, Jordan’s official state news agency reported Monday.

The “security dialogue” took place at the Arab Institute for Security Studies in Amman, the Petra news service said, without identifying any of the representatives from either side.

Discussions were in “an atmosphere of mutual respect,” according to the institute’s secretary general, Ayman Khalil, the report said, and covered issues such as reducing missile threats, ballistic weapons delivery vehicles and technical measures needed to build confidence over Iran’s nuclear program.

The parties reportedly also discussed cooperating on nuclear fuel.

A follow-up session is expected to be hosted in Amman soon, Khalil signaled, according to the report.

There were no statements from either Iranian or Saudi officials, though Iran’s state-affiliated Tehran Times carried the Petra report in a tacit confirmation that the talks took place.

Talks for a détente between Saudi Arabia and Iran have been going on for months, but the Saudi ambassador to the United Nations on Monday dismissed Tehran’s attitude in negotiations with various regional countries as “playing games.”

In a video interview with the English-language Arab News daily, which is published in Saudi Arabia, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi was dismissive of recent Iranian diplomatic activity.

“The Iranians take a long-term attitude toward these talks,” he said. “We are not interested in talks for the sake of talks, or for the sake of photo opportunities.”

Screen capture from video of Saudia ambassador to the United Nations Abdallah Al-Mouallimi during a video interview with the Arab News newspaper. (Arab News)

Al-Mouallimi also reiterated the Saudi position regarding ties with Israel, saying the kingdom will establish full diplomatic relations after peace is made between the Israelis and Palestinians on the basis of a 2002 plan that calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.

“As soon as that happens, not only Saudi Arabia but the entire Muslim world, all 57 countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, would follow suit in terms of recognizing the state of Israel and establishing relations with her,” he said.

The discussions with Saudi Arabia were launched under Iran’s former moderate president Hassan Rouhani and have continued since his ultraconservative successor, Ebrahim Raisi, took office in August.

The two countries cut ties in 2016, after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions in the Islamic republic following the kingdom’s execution of a revered Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

The reported talks in Amman came as Iran is negotiating with world powers in Europe to save its 2015 nuclear deal.

The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action granted Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear research aimed at preventing it from obtaining nuclear weapons.

The US under then-president Donald Trump pulled out of the deal in 2018, promoting Iran to drop many of its commitments, ramping up uranium enrichment to levels beyond those allowed under the deal and raising concerns it is becoming a nuclear threshold state.

European Union-sponsored talks in Vienna between Iran and the remaining signatories to the deal — Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia — have faltered, with Iran and the western European countries accusing each other of unreasonable demands.

The US is participating in the talks indirectly through intermediaries and has said it does not see Iran as being serious about saving the deal.

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