WORLD NEWS

Iran, Saudi Arabia agree to resume ties, with China’s help

Mar 10, 2023, 7:47 AM

This is a locator map for Iran with its capital, Tehran. (AP Photo)Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS...

This is a locator map for Iran with its capital, Tehran. (AP Photo)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed Friday to reestablish diplomatic relations and reopen embassies after seven years of tensions between the Mideast rivals. The major diplomatic breakthrough negotiated with China lowers the chance of armed conflict between the nations — both directly and in proxy conflicts around the region.

The deal, struck in Beijing this week amid its ceremonial National People’s Congress, represents a major diplomatic victory for the Chinese as Gulf Arab states perceive the United States slowly withdrawing from the wider Middle East. It also comes as diplomats have been trying to end a yearslong war in Yemen, a conflict in which both Iran and Saudi Arabia are deeply entrenched.

The two countries released a joint communique on the deal with China, which brokered the agreement. Chinese state media did not immediately report the agreement.

Iranian state media posted images and video it described as being taken in China of the meeting. It showed Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, with Saudi national security adviser Musaad bin Mohammed al-Aiban and Wang Yi, China’s most senior diplomat.

“After implementing of the decision, the foreign ministers of the both nations will meet to prepare for exchange of ambassadors,” Iranian state television said. It added that the talks had been held over four days.

The joint statement calls for the reestablishing of ties and the reopening of embassies to happen “within a maximum period of two months.”

In the footage aired by Iranian media, Wang could be heard offering “whole-hearted congratulations” on the two countries’ “wisdom.”

“Both sides have displayed sincerity,” he said. “China fully supports this agreement.”

China, which last month hosted Iran’s hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi, is also a top purchaser of Saudi oil. President Xi Jinping, just awarded a third five-year term as president earlier on Friday, visited Riyadh in December to attend meetings with oil-rich Gulf Arab nations crucial to China’s energy supplies.

Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted Shamkhani as calling the talks “clear, transparent, comprehensive and constructive.”

“Removing misunderstandings and the future-oriented views in relations between Tehran and Riyadh will definitely lead to improving regional stability and security, as well as increasing cooperation among Persian Gulf nations and the world of Islam for managing current challenges,” Shamkhani was quoted as saying.

Shortly after the Iranian announcement, Saudi state media began publishing the same statement.

Tensions have been high between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The kingdom broke off ties with Iran in 2016 after protesters invaded Saudi diplomatic posts there. Saudi Arabia had executed a prominent Shiite cleric days earlier, triggering the demonstrations.

The execution came as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, then a deputy, began his rise to power. The son of King Salman, Prince Mohammed at one point compared Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler, and also threatened to strike Iran.

In the years since, tensions have risen dramatically across the Middle East since the U.S. unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018. Iran has been blamed for a series of attacks in the time since, including one that targeted the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry in 2019, temporarily halving the kingdom’s crude production.

Though Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels initially claimed the attack, Western nations and experts have blamed the attack on Tehran. Iran long has denied launching the attack. It has also denied carrying out other assaults later attributed to the Islamic Republic.

Beyond the regional politics, religion also plays a key role. Saudi Arabia, home to the cube-shaped Kaaba that Muslims pray toward five times a day, has long portrayed itself as the world’s leading Sunni nation. Iran’s theocracy meanwhile views itself as the protector of the Islam’s Shiite minority.

The two powerhouses also have competing interests elsewhere, such as in the turmoil now tearing at Lebanon and in the rebuilding of Iraq after decades of war following the U.S.-led 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Kristian Ulrichsen, a research fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute who long has studied the region, said Saudi Arabia reaching the deal with Iran came after the United Arab Emirates reached a similar understanding with Tehran.

“This dialing down of tensions and de-escalation has been underway for three years and this was triggered by Saudi acknowledgement in their view that without unconditional U.S. backing they were unable to project power vis-a-vis Iran and the rest of the region,” he said.

Prince Mohammed, now focused on massive construction projects in his own country, likely wants to finally pull out of the Yemen war as well, Ulrichsen added.

“Instability could do a lot of damage to his plans,” he said.

The Houthis seized Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in September 2014 and forced the internationally recognized government into exile in Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition armed with U.S. weaponry and intelligence entered the war on the side of Yemen’s exiled government in March 2015. Years of inconclusive fighting has created a humanitarian disaster and pushed the Arab world’s poorest nation to the brink of famine.

A six-month cease-fire in Yemen’s war, the longest of the conflict, expired in October despite diplomatic efforts to renew it. That led to fears the war could again escalate. More than 150,000 people have been killed in Yemen during the fighting, including over 14,500 civilians.

In recent months, negotiations have been ongoing, including in Oman, a longtime interlocutor between Iran and the U.S. Some have hoped for an agreement ahead of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which will begin later in March. Iran and Saudi Arabia have held off-and-on talks in recent years, but it wasn’t immediately clear if Yemen was the impetus for this new detente.

Previous rounds of talks between Saudi and Iranian officials had been brokered by Baghdad and held in Iraq, but stalled last year. Iraq’s new government is perceived as closely linked to Iran, although Iraq has attempted to maintain relations with both sides.

In a statement following Friday’s announcement, the Iraqi foreign ministry welcomed the deal and said previous mediation by Iraq had established a “solid base” for the later talks and agreement in China, which gave a “qualitative impetus to cooperation for the countries of the region.”

The U.S. Navy and its allies have seized a number of weapons shipments recently they describe as coming from Iran heading to Yemen. Iran denies arming the Houthis, despite weapons seized mirroring others seen on the battlefield in the rebels’ hands. A United Nations arms embargo bars nations from sending weapons to the Houthis.

A high-ranking Houthi official, Mohamed Abdulsalam, appeared to welcome Friday’s deal in a statement that slammed the U.S. and Israel. “The region needs the return of normal relations between its countries, through which the Islamic society can regain its lost security as a result of the foreign interventions, led by the Zionists and Americans,″ he wrote online.

It remains unclear, however, what this means for America. Though long viewed as guaranteeing Mideast energy security, regional leaders have grown increasingly wary of Washington’s intentions after its chaotic 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan. The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment over the announced deal.

___

Associated Press writers Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, Jack Jeffery in Cairo, and Bassem Mroue and Abby Sewell in Beirut contributed to this report.

KSL 5 TV Live

World News

Leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attended meetings in Ecuador and Colum...

Carlysle Price

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints donates $3.4 million to Project HOPE

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints donated $3.4 million to Project HOPE to aid vulnerable populations in Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. 

1 day ago

People gather at the site of a landslide in Maip Mulitaka in Papua New Guinea's Enga Province on Fr...

Heather Chen, Alex Stambaugh, Edward Szekeres and Manveena Suri, CNN

More than 100 feared dead in remote region of Papua New Guinea hit by deadly landslide

More than 100 people are feared dead in a remote village in the Pacific nation of Papua New Guinea after a landslide flattened homes and buried people alive while they were sleeping, officials said Friday.

2 days ago

Couple stands among children **This image is for use with this specific article only**...

CNN

American missionary couple killed by gang in Haiti, family says

A married couple from the US who were serving as missionaries in Haiti were killed there on Thursday, family members said.

2 days ago

Public hearings in the case South Africa v. Israel. (Courtesy of the International Court of Justice...

Mike Corder

Top UN court orders Israel to halt military operation in Rafah; Israel is unlikely to comply

The top United Nations court has ordered Israel to immediately halt its military operations in the southern Gaza city of Rafah — but stopped short of ordering a full cease-fire.

2 days ago

stacked boxes in a warehouse...

Shelby Lofton

Brazilian women living in Utah need help transporting donations to Florida

Two Utah women who have gathered three warehouses full of donations for Brazil flooding victims are in need of help.

2 days ago

This undated photo taken by Colombia's Anthropology and History Institute shows sunken remains from...

Heather Chen and Michael Rios, CNN

Colombia launches expedition to explore 300-year-old Spanish shipwreck filled with sunken treasure

Colombia has launched an underwater expedition to explore a Spanish warship that sank in the Caribbean 300 years ago.

3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Iran, Saudi Arabia agree to resume ties, with China’s help