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Thawing ties: Three Iranian diplomats in Saudi Arabia to take up OIC posts

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Three Iranian diplomats arrive in Saudi Arabia to take up posts at the headquarters of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Three Iranian diplomats have arrived in Saudi Arabia to take up posts at the headquarters of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in the kingdom, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman says.

“Three Iranian diplomats have arrived in Jeddah to start their work at the OIC,” Saeed Khatibzadeh said at a weekly press conference on Monday.

Khatibzadeh described the latest development as “a good prelude for the two sides to visit their embassies.”

“Iran has always expressed its readiness to open its embassy in Saudi Arabia,” he added.

The spokesman also said paying attention to one’s words and deeds is a prelude to a détente between Tehran and Riyadh, which, “God willing, our friends in Saudi Arabia are increasingly cognizant of.”

On Saturday, a member of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee said Iran and Saudi Arabia are preparing to reopen embassies after five years of severed ties.

The restoration of ties between the two important countries of Iran and Saudi Arabia would play a substantial role in easing tensions in the region, Jalil Rahimi Jahanabadi said in a tweet.

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

For years, the kingdom pursued a confrontational foreign policy toward the Islamic Republic, but since last year, the kingdom appears to have changed tack.

The two Middle East heavyweights have held four rounds of talks since April, including a meeting last month under the Iranian administration of President Ebrahim Raeisi.

In an interview with Al Jazeera published on January 6, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said Tehran and Riyadh have so far held four rounds of “positive and constructive” talks in Iraq.

He expressed Tehran’s readiness to restore relations with Riyadh at any time, adding that Iran welcomes the reopening of the two sides’ embassies and consulates.

The top Iranian diplomat also noted that the country’s representatives to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation would return to Jeddah soon, which is a “positive and good sign.”

In an interview with the Financial Times published in October, 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.

Describing the negotiations as “exploratory” but “cordial”, he 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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