Iran and Saudi Arabia on Friday agreed to reestablish diplomatic ties and reopen embassies after seven years of hostility that had hampered peace in the Middle East and triggered various proxy conflicts in the region.
The deal was announced by the Saudi foreign ministry after four days of talks in Beijing between security officials of both Tehran and Riyadh. A trilateral statement issued by Iran, Saudi Arabia and China said the initiative was taken on the request of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who had agreed to host and sponsor the talks in China. “The delegations from the two countries held talks during the period 6-10 March, 2023 in Beijing—the delegation of Saudi Arabia headed by [National Security Adviser Dr. Musaad bin Mohammed al-Aiban] and the delegation of Iran headed by [Supreme National Security Council Secretary Admiral Ali Shamkhani],” it said, adding that both sides had expressed their appreciation to Iraq and Oman for hosting earlier dialogues during 2021-2022.
“The two sides also expressed their appreciation and gratitude to the leadership and government of China for hosting and sponsoring the talks, and the efforts it placed toward its success,” it said.
According to the agreement signed between all three countries, Saudi Arabia and Iran would resume diplomatic ties; reopen embassies and missions within two months; and respect the sovereignty of states and non-interference in internal affairs of states. “They also agreed that the foreign affairs ministers of both countries shall meet to implement this, arrange for the return of their ambassadors, and discuss means of enhancing bilateral relations,” it said, adding that they would also implement the Security Cooperation Agreement inked in 2001, as well as the General Agreement for Cooperation in the Fields of Economy, Trade, Investment, Technology, Science, Culture, Sports, and Youth from 1998.
The U.N. has welcomed the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement and thanked China for its role. “Good neighborly relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia are essential for the stability of the Gulf region,” U.N. spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said at U.N. headquarters. The White House similarly welcomed “any efforts to help end the war in Yemen and de-escalate tensions in the Middle East region,” though the State Department cautioned that it remained to be seen whether Iran would honor the deal.
The agreement is being seen as a means to reduce tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, as ties between the two were severed in 2016 after protesters invaded Saudi diplomatic posts. Saudi Arabia had executed a prominent Shia cleric with 46 others days earlier, triggering the demonstrations. The Gulf kingdom, traditionally close to the U.S., has also blamed Iran for several attacks since 2018, most notably an assault targeting the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry in 2019. Iran has consistently denied any role in such militant strikes.