Tehran (IP) - Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister has said the kingdom is “serious” about talks with Iran, signaling Riyadh’s desire to repair relations between the two countries.

Iran PressMiddle East: In an interview with the Financial Times, Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud added that Riyadh was considering allowing Iran to reopen its consulate in the port city of Jeddah but said the talks had not made sufficient progress in restoring full diplomatic relations. Since April, Iran and Saudi Arabia have held four rounds of talks, including a first meeting last month with the administration of the new President Ebrahim Raisi.

The Saudi foreign minister stated that the talks with Iran had been “cordial” while describing the negotiations as “exploratory”.

“We are serious about the talks,” he said, adding: “For us, it’s not that big a shift. We’ve always said we want to find a way to stabilise the region.”

Riyadh and Tehran cut diplomatic ties in January 2016 after Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Iran went under attack. The embassy was attacked after Saudi Arabia executed a senior Shia cleric.

Riyadh believes negotiations have not yet made sufficient progress to restore full relations with Tehran. But a Saudi official told the FT that it was considering an Iranian request for it to open its consulate in Jeddah. Riyadh was also considering allowing Tehran to reopen its representative office for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in the port city. 

The discussions took place amid European diplomatic efforts to broker a deal on Washington’s return to the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of action (JCPOA), Tehran signed with world powers in 2015. 

“The leadership has a clear policy that the priority is prosperity, building the country, Vision 2030 [reform plan], and you can’t deliver those things with a region in turmoil,” Faisal bin Farhan said, noting: “So while we will vigorously defend our national security and our sovereignty, we will try to resolve them through diplomacy as well.”

He added a “confluence of events that made it feel like it was the right moment” to talk to Iran.

“We were always willing to talk if they might actually be serious,” he said, adding: “Various factors came into play.”

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iranian Foreign Minister, told a press conference in Beirut last Friday (October 8): "The talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia are moving in the right direction, and we need to continue the talks,"

Amir-Abdollahian added: "Iran and Saudi Arabia have reached agreements in some cases and we welcome the talks."

"Our talks with Saudi Arabia are in the interest of the region," Amir-Abdollahian said, adding: "This is a constructive dialogue. Iran and Saudi Arabia are two great countries and play an important role in stabilizing security in the region.

Meanwhile, Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh answered a France24 question about recent meetings between Iranian and Saudi negotiators, saying: "Several rounds of talks were held between the two countries' officials in Baghdad with the help of our Iraqi friends during which various topics of interest, including bilateral and regional, were discussed."

"We are now in a position with great hope that we can have clear and frank talks with our Saudi friends; I believe that if we see a change in approaches, we will see good results and a good outcome of these talks," Khatibzadeh added. 

About Iran's approach to resolving the Yemeni crisis, Khatibzadeh said: "The Islamic Republic of Iran has taken a very constructive approach, both in helping the UN initiative to talk to our Yemeni friends and facilitating the formation of Yemeni-Yemeni talks. The Yemen crisis was one of the topics we talked about during the talks with our Saudi counterparts in Baghdad, and we will continue to do so."


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