Iran and Saudi Arabia have resumed trade after a year of zero exchanges, the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration (IRICA) says.
A report of Iran’s six-month trade with neighboring countries released by IRICA spokesman Rouhollah Latifi put Saudi Arabia on the list of export destinations.
According to the official, trade between the two countries reached zero in the last Iranian fiscal year ending on 20 March 2021 after years of decline.
In remarks published by the Financial Times on Friday, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud signaled his country's desire to repair relations with Iran, saying the kingdom is “serious” about talks with the Islamic Republic.
The two Middle East heavyweights have held four rounds of talks since April, including a first meeting last month with the government of new President Ebrahim Raeisi.
“We are serious about the talks,” he said, describing the negotiations as “exploratory” but “cordial".
“For us it’s not that big a shift. We’ve always said we want to find a way to stabilize the region,” he said.
Last week, deputy minister of Export Development of the Trade Development Organization Farhad Nouri said Iran was ready to resume exports to Saudi Arabia if tensions eased between the two neighbors.
Nouri touched on the active presence of Iranian exporters in the Saudi market when relations between the two countries were normal, saying if the current rapprochement efforts succeeded, traders would be the immediate beneficiaries and exports would significantly rise.
"The Saudi market is very wide in terms of consumer goods, and given the cultural proximity, the issue of Hajj and holy shrines and the traditional presence of Iranian traders in the Saudi market, our exporters know the taste of this market,” he said.
Riyadh is considering an Iranian request for it to open its consulate in the port city of Jeddah, the Financial Times cited an unnamed Saudi official as saying Friday.
Saudi Arabia unilaterally cut diplomatic ties with Iran in January 2016 after angry protests were held outside its embassy in Tehran in reaction to the kingdom's execution a senior Shia scholar.
In his interview, Prince Faisal indicated Riyadh's intention to mend fences after years of pursuing an aggressive policy toward the Islamic Republic.
“The leadership has a clear policy that the priority is prosperity, building the country, Vision 2030, and you can’t deliver those things with a region in turmoil,” he said. “So while we will vigorously defend our national security and our sovereignty, we will try to resolve them through diplomacy as well.”
According to a senior Iraqi official familiar with the progress of negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Islamic Republic has called on the kingdom to help sell Iranian oil.
For years, Saudi Arabia had been trying to contain Iran's oil exports, assuring former US president Donald Trump once to ramp up production to cover any shortage in the market when he unveiled his campaign to bring Iranian sales to zero.
Prince Faisal cited 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. “Various factors came into play.”
Last month, Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud expressed hope that Riyadh's direct dialog with Tehran would lead to confidence building.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said then Tehran was pleased with how negotiations have proceeded with Saudi Arabia, emphasizing that the two regional players had the capacity to establish “sustainable” ties.