News ID: 113774
Publish Date : 07 April 2023 - 21:59
U.S. Left ‘Blindsided’

Iran, Saudi Arabia Formally Restore Ties

BEIJING (Dispatches) — Iran and Saudi Arabia took another significant step toward reconciliation Thursday, formally restoring diplomatic ties after a seven-year rift, affirming the need for regional stability and agreeing to pursue economic cooperation.
The agreement was reached in Beijing during a meeting between the Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers, a month after China had brokered an initial reconciliation agreement between the two regional powerhouses.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hussein Amir-Abdollahian laid out details of Thursday’s agreement in a tweet, after his talks with Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud.
The minister wrote that Thursday marked the beginning of “official diplomatic relations ... economic and commercial cooperation, the reopening of embassies and consulates general, and the emphasis on stability, stable security and development of the region.” Amir-Abdollahian said that the issues are “agreed upon and on the common agenda.”
IRNA said that in addition to reopening embassies in the two capitals, diplomatic missions would start operating in two other major cities — Mashhad in Iran and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. The report said both sides also agreed to study the prospects of resuming flights and official and private visits between the two nations, in addition to how to facilitate the visa process for their people.
China’s Foreign Ministry last month reported that both sides had agreed to reopen their embassies and missions within two months.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said the two foreign ministers signed a joint statement and expressed their determination to improve ties in line with their talks in Beijing last month.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency carried a brief news item on the meeting, saying “discussions were held on joint relations and ways to enhance cooperation in many fields,” with both sides aiming to “enhance the security, stability, and prosperity of the two countries and peoples.”
Thursday’s talks in Beijing marked the first formal meeting of senior diplomats from the two nations since 2016, when the kingdom broke ties with Iran. Saudi Arabia had executed a prominent Shia cleric with 46 others days earlier, triggering demonstrations in the Islamic Republic.
The warming of ties shows that “regional countries have the will and ability to take the lead” in maintaining peace, Mao said at the briefing.
She said China is ready to support both sides in fostering good relations, urging the international community to help the Middle Eastern countries resolve their differences.
“The colonial hegemonic tactics of stirring up contradictions, creating estrangement and division should be rejected by the people all over the world,” she said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the restoration of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran is “a very important development” to increase stability in the region, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday.
Principal deputy State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said the United States has welcomed diplomatic progress between Saudi Arabia and Iran, but the Wall Street Journal reported that Washington had been left reeling.
CIA director Bill Burns told Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman that the U.S. feels “blindsided” by Riyadh’s moves to restore ties with Iran and Syria as part of the kingdom’s increasingly independent foreign policy streak, the paper said.
Burns travelled to Saudi Arabia at an undisclosed time this week to discuss intelligence cooperation with the Saudi Arabians. During the meeting, he expressed Washington’s frustration at being left out of regional developments, according to the Journal.
Burns’ comments challenge the U.S.’s official line that Saudi Arabia kept it informed of its talks with Iran to restore diplomatic relations.
“The Saudis did keep us informed about these talks that they were having, just as we keep them informed on our engagements,” White House spokesman John Kirby said last month.
It is more difficult for the U.S. to position itself as a winner from Saudi Arabia’s moves to reestablish ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by Russia and Iran. The U.S. says it is opposed to normalization and successive administrations have imposed crushing sanctions on Damascus.
But Riyadh appears to be moving full-steam ahead to bring Damascus in from the cold.
The kingdom plans to invite Assad to an Arab League summit it is hosting in May. The Saudi foreign minister is expected to travel to Damascus in the coming weeks to personally deliver a formal invitation to Assad.
Burns has earned a reputation as the White House’s “back-channel”

 emissary for sensitive foreign policy missions.
He travelled to Russia late last year in a failed bid to warn President Vladimir Putin against invading Ukraine. He also visited Saudi Arabia ahead of President Biden’s July visit to the country, in a bid to repair frayed ties.
His visit also comes on the back of Saudi Arabia’s surprise decision on Sunday to implement an oil production cut that sent crude prices skyrocketing. Saudi’s support for a cut in October last year was slammed by the Biden administration as aligning with Russia amid the war in Ukraine.
But the kingdom is brushing off U.S. complaints. Saudi officials have gone on the offensive, slamming energy transition goals - mainly supported in the West - as unrealistic.
Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman has offered some of the sharpest criticism: “We keep hearing you ‘are with us or against us’. Is there any room for ‘we are with the people of Saudi Arabia?’” he said after the Opec+ production cut in October.