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Preliminary agreements reached with Saudi Arabia through Baghdad talks: Foreign Ministry spokesman

Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman says the Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia have reached preliminary agreements through talks held in the Iraqi capital and it is only a matter of time before they are finalized.

Saeed Khatibzadeh made the remarks in an interview with Mehr news agency on Sunday, when asked about the latest situation of negotiations between Tehran and Riyadh and their outcomes.

“We have reached preliminary agreements through these talks... These agreements have been reached by the two sides and we are waiting for them to be finalized,” the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman added.

"Four rounds of talks have been held in Baghdad, but contacts between the two countries have never been cut," Khatibzadeh said, noting that Iranian and Saudi officials have been in constant contacts and exchanged regular messages.

He said the reopening of the two countries' embassies would still take some time, but it is possible to start the necessary process in the near future.

Khatibzadeh's remarks came after Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble in Rome, Italy, on Saturday that talks between Tehran and Riyadh were continuing, but no solid progress had been made so far.

“We are talking. We in the kingdom are committed to finding a path towards forging understandings with Iran ... in a way that we can all focus on building a prosperous future for our people. So far, these talks have been exploratory in nature," he said.

The Saudi minister added, "We’ve had four rounds [of discussions] so far. We may have another round. We’re working that out. We haven’t really reached any conclusive progress. But they have been, I would say, positive enough to allow for further discussion beyond, but nothing concrete as of yet."

Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 after Iranian protesters, enraged by the Saudi execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, stormed its embassy in Tehran. 

For years, the kingdom pursued a confrontational foreign policy toward the Islamic Republic, but it recently appeared to have changed track.

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.

Khatibzadeh said on October 4 that no precondition has been imposed by either side in talks between Tehran and Riyadh intended to mend bilateral ties.

"There are no preconditions from either side, and we are trying to start a sustainable relationship within the mutually beneficial framework,” he added.

Later on October 15, the Saudi foreign minister signaled his country's desire to repair relations with Iran, saying the kingdom is “serious” about talks with the Islamic Republic.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Prince Faisal described the negotiations as “exploratory” but “cordial” and said, “We are serious about the talks. For us it’s not that big a shift. We’ve always said we want to find a way to stabilize the region.”

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