TEHRAN: Iran’s foreign ministry on Monday for the first time confirmed the Islamic republic is holding talks with regional rival Saudi Arabia, but said it is “too soon” to discuss the results.
Media reports, later confirmed by diplomatic and Iraqi government sources, revealed that Iranian and Saudi officials met in Baghdad in April, their first high-level meeting since Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with Tehran in 2016.
“The purpose of the talks was both bilateral and regional,” Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters.
“But let us wait and see the results of these talks ... it might still be too soon to talk about the details of the negotiations,” he added, noting that Iran has “always welcomed such talks at any level and in any shape”.
The neighbouring countries cut ties in 2016 after Iranian protestors attacked Saudi diplomatic missions following the kingdom’s execution of a revered Shiite cleric. The talks in Baghdad, facilitated by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi, remained secret until the Financial Times reported that a first meeting was held on April 9.
An Iraqi government official confirmed the talks to AFP, while a Western diplomat said he had been “briefed in advance” about the effort to “broker a better relationship and decrease tensions”.
Iran on April 29 welcomed a “change of tone” from the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman towards it after he called for a “good and special relationship” with Tehran. The regional rivals have backed opposite sides of several regional conflicts, from Syria to Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting the Huthi rebels.
Iran backs the Huthis, who are battling the Saudi-led military that intervened in Yemen’s war in 2015. “De-escalation and (establishing) ties between two great Islamic countries in the Persian Gulf region is to the benefit of both nations,” Khatibzadeh said Monday.