(Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP via Getty Images)
OAN Roy Francis
UPDATED 10:27 AM – Friday, March 10, 2023
After years of hostilities, which have fueled multiple conflicts and threatened the overall security and stability in the Gulf, Iran and Saudi Arabia have agreed to re-establish relations.
The deal was announced after four days of talks in Beijing between top officials from the two Middle East powers.
According to a statement released by Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China, the two nations have agreed to “resume diplomatic relations” and re-open embassies within two months.
Relations between the two nations had deteriorated after Saudi Arabia executed a Shi’ite Muslim Cleric. The execution led to a dispute between the two nations, and the storming of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Tehran in 2016.
Since the relationship between them ended, Iran has been blamed by Saudi Arabia for multiple missile and drone attack on their oil facilities and attacks on tankers in Gulf water.
Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement had also been involved in the conflict between the two. The Houthi movement had carried out missile and drone attacks into Saudi Arabia, and extended the attacks into the United Arab Emirates in 2022.
The new agreement between the two nations will reactivate a 2001 security cooperation accord and an earlier trade, economy, and investment pact. The agreement was signed by Iran’s top security official and Saudi Arabia’s security advisor.
The White House said that Saudi Arabia had kept them informed of the talks in China, but they were not directly involved. The long-standing strategic ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia have been strained under President Joe Biden.
Meanwhile, the relationship between China and Saudi Arabia has grown stronger, highlighted by the visit of President Xi Jinping to the middle eastern nation in December.
Experts explained that both sides stand to benefit from de-escalation at this point. Saudi Arabia’s main focus is its economic development while Iran seeks to undercut the U.S. efforts to isolate it in the region. The Gulf states like the UAE, Oman and Qatar have all welcomed the announcement of restored ties between the two nations.
Hossein Amirabdollahian, the Iranian Foreign Minister, suggested there was more “regional steps” to take and that their policy is moving in the right direction.
“The neighbourhood policy, as the key axis of the Iranian government’s foreign policy, is strongly moving in the right direction and the diplomatic apparatus is actively behind the preparation of more regional steps,” Amirabdollahian said on Twitter.
According to Reuters, a senior Iranian official had said that addressing the tensions between them and Saudi Arabia became a top priority. He said that this would help resolve the disputes surrounding Iran’s nuclear programs and will hopefully also “encourage the West to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran.”
Reports suggest that Riyadh had been seeking security guarantees from Iran in regards with its missile program, and that the re-activation of the 2001 security accord may have addressed that issue.