Arabia and Iran restore ties in China-brokered deal


After seven years of tension, Riyadh and Tehran will reopen embassies and revive a 2001 security deal

Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed on Friday to resume diplomatic relations and reopen embassies within two months. Relations between the Sunni kingdom and the Shia republic broke down in 2016, and the two powers have supported opposing sides in multiple regional conflicts.

The agreement was reached after several days of negotiations in Beijing. As a result of the negotiations, both countries agreed to reopen their embassies “within a maximum period of two months,” and to commit “non-interference” in each other’s internal affairs, according to a joint statement by Saudi, Iranian and Chinese officials.

In addition, Riyadh and Tehran said they would resume a security cooperation agreement signed in 2001 and work to improve “regional and international peace and security.”

Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran in 2016 after protesters stormed diplomatic outposts there after the kingdom executed a prominent Shiite scholar just days earlier.

Previous rounds of talks to resolve tensions took place in Iraq and Oman in 2021 and 2022.

Sectarian differences aside, the two regional powers have clashed over key geopolitical issues. Saudi Arabia maintains close economic and military relations with the US, while Iran has been heavily sanctioned by Washington over its nuclear program. Successive US administrations have threatened Tehran with diplomatic or military repercussions if it developed nuclear weapons, with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warning Thursday that the US “will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.”

Riyadh and Tehran support opposing sides in the civil wars in Yemen and Syria, while Iran supports the Hezbollah movement in Lebanon. Saudi Arabia considers Hezbollah, along with the US and Israel, a terrorist group.

In December, Tehran accused Saudi Arabia — along with the US and Israel — of inciting anti-government riots across Iran. Iran’s National Security Council chief Ali Shamkhani told IRNA news agency on Friday that he hopes the agreement “obvious misunderstandings… and lead to the development of regional stability and security.”

Beijing’s role in brokering the agreement is a major diplomatic victory for China, which has also positioned itself as a potential go-between between Ukraine and Russia. However, China’s recently published 12-point proposal was rejected by US and NATO leaders, and was rejected by Kiev – where officials are sticking to their maximum goals of seizing Russia’s territory of Crimea.

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