By Alireza Hashemi
The reopening of Iranian diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia gives a "signal of peace and cooperation" to the region and the world, says a foreign affairs analyst and a seasoned diplomat.
In an interview with the Press TV website on Wednesday, Sabah Zanganeh, who served as Iran's ambassador and permanent representative to the Jeddah-headquartered Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), hailed the restoration of diplomatic ties between Tehran and Riyadh.
He said the re-opening of Iran’s diplomatic missions in Saudi Arabia - embassy in Riyadh on Tuesday and consulate in Jeddah on Wednesday – is a step towards closer partnership between the two countries that sends a signal of peace and cooperation to the region and the wider world.
“Iran-Saudi normalization can greatly impact the region as it sends a signal to countries within the orbit of Saudi Arabia, particularly those in the Arabian Peninsula, to seek friendship with Tehran and avoid decisions that might displease the country,” the former diplomat stressed.
He said the reopening of Iranian diplomatic missions will be a “stepping stone” for the expansion of ties between the two sides in the areas of the economy, security and culture, etc.
The Iranian embassy in the Saudi capital was reopened on Tuesday, after more than seven years, in line with an agreement reached between the two countries in Beijing in March.
Iran and Saudi Arabia, who were engaged in marathon tension-easing negotiations mediated by Iraq and Oman for two years, finally agreed to bury the hatchet in March following talks in Beijing.
The two countries had severed their ties in January 2016 after the execution of a prominent Shia cleric in Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, prompted angry protests to storm the Saudi embassy in Tehran.
Relations between the two Persian Gulf neighbors deteriorated further as the Saudi-led coalition’s devastating war on Yemen spawned the modern world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe there and Riyadh’s support to militant groups in Syria precipitated crisis and chaos in the country.
Zanganeh said the rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia can pave the way for a regional peace drive and help in ending small or big conflicts, particularly in Yemen and Syria.
“The rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia has so far helped ease tensions in Yemen and cemented efforts to end the suffering of people in the Arab world’s poorest nation (Yemen). Now we can expect a full-fledged ceasefire in the country,” he said.
These turn of events, the veteran diplomat hastened to add, can help expedite Syria’s return to the Arab fold, which will greatly help the war-torn country’s economy.
Iran-Saudi détente comes amid the intense regional push for peace and reconciliation with many countries queuing up to restore or upgrade ties with the Islamic Republic in recent months.
This regional diplomacy drive has created alarm and unease in Washington and Tel Aviv.
A day after the reopening of the Iranian embassy, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held wide-ranging talks with Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman in Jeddah, making a renewed push for Saudi Arabia-Israel normalization that Riyadh has already ruled out.
Asked if Saudi Arabia might succumb to pressure from the US and Israel, Zanganeh said Riyadh resisted pressure from former US president Donald Trump to normalize with Israel and he doesn’t see any reason to believe things would change now.
"Saudi Arabia has its own reservations when it comes to Israel. The Saudi leaders describe themselves as custodians of the two holy mosques so they can’t easily make the decision to openly befriend the Israeli regime. Saudi Arabia is not the UAE or Bahrain,” he said.