Politics & News

Saudi crown prince meets Iran’s foreign minister as relations thaw




Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian on Friday for the most high-level talks since the two countries reconciled in March after years of bitter rivalry that destabilized the region.  The unscheduled meeting in Jeddah came a day after Amirabdollahian arrived in the kingdom and said relations between the two countries were “on the right track” following talks with his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan.  Advertisement · Scroll to continue


“The discussions were honest, useful, and productive,” Amirabdollahian said in a post on social media  after meeting with the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, adding that the two countries “agreed on the security and development of all in the region.” Mohammed bin Salman has sought to reorient Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy in recent years, given its historically close relationship with the United States.


In a meeting covered by Iranian state media, MbS and Amirabdollahian smiled as they spoke with Prince Faisal and the Iranian delegation. Saudi Arabia’s state news agency SPA said they discussed international and regional developments. The rivalry between Iran’s revolutionary Shiite Muslim leaders and Saudi Arabia’s Sunni ruling family has dominated the Middle East for years as they jostle for influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Bahrain in a wave of sectarian bloodshed.

However, China brokered a rapprochement in March that led to the restoration of full diplomatic relations, which Saudi Arabia severed in 2016 when protesters stormed the embassy in Tehran over the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric in Riyadh. Prince Faisal visited Tehran in June and said he hoped Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi would visit the kingdom “at an appropriate time”.


After years of competition and with some key regional rivalries stronger than in previous years, both sides need to change direction. Iranian officials said Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wanted to end political and economic isolation imposed by the United States and saw new ties with Saudi Arabia as an opportunity. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, lost faith in the American commitment to solving common regional security problems and wanted to strengthen ties with China, which maintained good relations with Iran.


This month, China managed to attend a diplomatic meeting on Ukraine, which Beijing had previously avoided.  Prince Faisal also spoke by phone with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the pair discussed further coordination “to improve security and stability in the Middle East region”, Saudi state media said on Friday.

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