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Agencies
May 8, 2021

KSA-Iran talks aim to reduce regional tensions: official

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Agencies
May 8, 2021

RIYADH: A Saudi foreign ministry official said on Friday that talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran aim to reduce regional tensions, but added it was too early to judge the outcome and Riyadh wanted to see “verifiable deeds”.

The comments by Ambassador Rayed Krimly, head of policy planning at the ministry, were the first public confirmation from Riyadh that the rivals - who severed ties in 2016 - were holding direct talks.

"As to current Saudi-Iranian talks they aim to explore ways to reduce tensions in the region," Krimly said. "We hope they prove successful, but it is too early, and premature, to reach any definitive conclusions. Our evaluation will be based on verifiable deeds, and not proclamations."

Regional officials and sources said that the discussions were focused on Yemen and the 2015 nuclear deal between global powers and Iran, which Riyadh had opposed. Iraq's president said on Wednesday that Baghdad hosted more than one round of talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran, who have been locked in a rivalry that has played out in proxy conflicts across the region, including Yemen.

Krimly said Saudi policy had been explained "very clearly" by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who last month said that while the Sunni Muslim kingdom has a problem with Tehran's "negative behaviour" it wanted good relations with Iran

Tensions between Riyadh and Tehran have festered over the Yemen war, where an Iran-aligned Houthi group has increased attacks on Saudi Arabia. Strains between the two Gulf powerhouses also grew after a 2019 assault on Saudi oil plants that Riyadh blamed on Iran.

Riyadh supported former U.S. President Donald Trump's decision in 2018 to quit the nuclear pact for not addressing Tehran's missiles programme and regional behaviour. After Trump re-imposed sanctions on Iran, Tehran responded by breaching nuclear restrictions.

Gulf states have been alarmed by the rising influence of non-Arab Iran, Russia and Turkey in Syria, especially after Syria's membership of the Arab League was suspended in 2011 over its crackdown on protesters at the start of the civil war.

Krimly said recent media reports that the head of Saudi intelligence had held talks in Damascus were inaccurate. He said Saudi policy towards Syria remained based on support for the Syrian people, for a political solution under a UN umbrella and in accordance with Security Council resolutions, and for the unity and Arab identity of Syria.