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Home World News Washington Post World News Iran and Saudi Arabia agree to resume ties, with China’s help

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



DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran and Saudi Arabia on Friday agreed to restore diplomatic ties and reopen embassies after years of tension between the two countries, including a devastating attack on the heart of the kingdom’s oil production blamed on Tehran .

The deal, which was struck in Beijing this week at the ceremonial National People’s Congress, represents a major diplomatic victory for the Chinese as the Gulf Arab states sense the United States’ slow withdrawal from the wider Middle East. It also comes as diplomats have sought to end a years-long war in Yemen, a conflict in which both Iran and Saudi Arabia are entrenched.

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

Iranian state media posted photos and videos they claimed were taken in China of the meeting. It showed Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s top national security council, with Saudi national security adviser Musaad bin Mohammed al-Aiban and Wang Yi, China’s top diplomat.

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

The joint statement calls for restoring ties and reopening embassies within a maximum period of two months.

In the footage broadcast by the Iranian media, Wang could be heard “congratulating wholeheartedly” on the “wisdom” of the two countries.

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

China, which recently played host to hardline Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, is also one of the largest buyers of Saudi oil. President Xi Jinping, who just won a third five-year term as president earlier on Friday, visited Riyadh in December to attend meetings with oil-rich Gulf Arab states critical to China’s energy supply.

The state-run Iranian news agency IRNA quoted Shamkhani as “clear, transparent, comprehensive and constructive”.

“Removing misunderstandings and forward-looking views in relations between Tehran and Riyadh will surely improve regional stability and security, as well as increase cooperation between the Persian Gulf countries and the world of Islam to overcome the current challenges face,” Shamkhani said. .

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

Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia are running high. The kingdom cut ties with Iran in 2016 after protesters raided Saudi diplomatic posts there. Saudi Arabia had executed a prominent Shia cleric days earlier, triggering the demonstrations.

The execution took place when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, then a deputy, came to power. Prince Mohammed, the son of King Salman, once compared Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany and also threatened to attack Iran.

In the years since, tensions in the Middle East have risen dramatically since the US unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018. Arab oil industry in 2019, temporarily halving the kingdom’s crude production.

Although Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels initially claimed the attack, Western countries and pundits have blamed Tehran for the attack. Iran has long denied launching the attack. It has also denied carrying out other attacks later attributed to the Islamic Republic.

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

“This tension easing and de-escalation has been going on for three years now and it was caused by Saudi acknowledgment in their belief that without unconditional support from the US they were unable to wield power over Iran and the rest of the world. the region. ” he said.

Prince Mohammed, who is now focusing on massive construction projects in his own country, is also likely to finally pull out of the war in Yemen, Ulrichsen added.

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

The Houthis seized Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in September 2014, forcing the internationally recognized government into exile in Saudi Arabia. A Saudi Arabian-led coalition armed with US weapons and intelligence entered the war in March 2015 on the side of the Yemeni government-in-exile. Years of inconclusive fighting have created a humanitarian disaster, pushing the Arab world’s poorest nation to the brink of famine.

A six-month ceasefire in the war in Yemen, the longest in the conflict, expired in October despite diplomatic efforts to extend it. That led to fears that the war could escalate again. More than 150,000 people have been killed in the fighting in Yemen, including more than 14,500 civilians.

Negotiations have been underway in recent months, including in Oman, a longstanding interlocutor between Iran and the US. Some have hoped for an agreement ahead of the holy Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, which will begin later in March. Iran and Saudi Arabia have had occasional talks in recent years, but it was not immediately clear whether Yemen was the impetus for this new detente.

The US Navy and its allies recently seized a number of arms shipments they believe originated in Iran and are headed for Yemen. Iran denies it has armed the Houthis, despite the seized weapons reflecting others on the battlefield in rebel hands. A United Nations arms embargo prohibits countries from sending weapons to the Houthis.

However, it remains unclear what this means for America. Long regarded as a guarantor of energy security in the Middle East, regional leaders have become increasingly wary of Washington’s intentions following the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021. The US State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the announced deal.

Associated Press writer Nasser Karimi in Tehran, Iran, contributed to this report.

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