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Iran says ready to continue fence-mending talks with Saudi Arabia, strike deal

This illustrative picture shows the national flags of Iran (L) and Saudi Arabia.

The Islamic Republic is ready for a new round of fence-mending talks with Saudi Arabia in the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad, Iran’s Nour News said Wednesday, adding that the country is determined to strike an agreement.

Nour News, affiliated with the country’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), made the announcement in a Persian-language tweet, a day after Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan told reporters in London that Riyadh is ready to continue talks with Tehran.

“We are open to dialogue with Iran,” the chief Saudi diplomat said on Tuesday.

“Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan has once again declared his readiness for talks with Iran. The five rounds of negotiations already held between the two countries have completely clarified the common areas of interest,” the tweet said.

It added, “Iran also welcomes the continuation of dialog and is ready to reach an agreement. The existence of political will is necessary for progress within the course of negotiations.”

On January 29, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein said Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had urged senior Iraqi authorities to arrange a face-to-face meeting between the top diplomats of Riyadh and Tehran.

“Mohammed bin Salman has demanded senior Iraqi officials set up the meeting between Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian [in the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad],” Hussein told Iraq’s Kurdish-language Rudaw television news network. “We are busy organizing the event, and the timing will be announced later on.”

Earlier that month, the Saudi foreign minister said Riyadh was trying to find a path to dialog with Tehran as the best way to resolve differences.

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Speaking at a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 17, the chief Saudi diplomat said a decision by Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states to focus on their economies and development was a “strong signal to Iran and others in the region that there is a pathway beyond traditional arguments and disputes toward joint prosperity.”

Amir-Abdollahian expressed hope on January 13 that diplomatic ties between Tehran and Riyadh could be restored through dialog between them.

“We are ready to restore ties, and such a move would have positive repercussions on the entire region,” Amir-Abdollahian told a news conference in Beirut.

He also said the first steps should be resuming talks on reopening Iran’s consulate in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah, and Saudi Arabia’s consulate in the holy northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad for citizens interested in religious travel.

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

The kingdom then pursued a confrontational foreign policy toward the Islamic Republic, especially during the administration of former US President Donald Trump, with whom the Saudi rulers had close ties.

Saudi Arabia appears to have recently changed its antagonistic course, showing willingness through diplomatic channels and third parties to mend fences with Tehran and resume bilateral relations.

The two neighbors remain deeply divided over a set of regional issues, mainly the destructive and protracted Saudi war on Yemen.

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