PARIS (Dispatches) -- Saudi Arabia is “hopeful” after exploratory talks with Iran, its foreign minister told AFP, in a rare comment on delicate discussions whose details have been closely guarded. The official-level meetings aim to restore relations severed five years ago.
“We have initiated some exploratory talks. They are at a very early stage but we are hopeful,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan said in Paris, where he is participating in two international summits.
The Iranian government only confirmed on May 10 that the talks had been held, adding that it was “too soon” to discuss the results.
“If (the Iranians) can see that their interest is in a good relationship with their neighbors, I can be hopeful,” Prince Faisal said, emphasizing again that they were “at an early stage”.
Asked what the impact of the June presidential elections in Iran might be, he said he thought it would be minimal.
“Our understanding of Iran’s foreign policy is that it’s set by the Supreme Leader,” he explained. “So we don’t think there will be a substantial change.”
“There may be a change in the representatives that portray that policy, but in the end, it’s what happens on the ground that matters, and that is driven by the Supreme Leader.”
The countries cut ties in 2016 after Iranian protesters held an angry rally outside Saudi diplomatic missions following the kingdom’s execution of a revered Shia cleric.
But in April, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince struck a conciliatory tone, saying he sought “good” relations.
The tentative initiative comes at a time of shifting power dynamics. Saudi Arabia is increasingly finding itself pushed to the corner over its gory slaughter of Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
Riyadh is also weary of a six-year bombardment of Yemen, which has achieved it nothing but rising international outcry over the humanitarian crisis which the invasion has caused in the impoverished nations.
Meanwhile, groups fighting the Saudi invasion are powerful more than ever, responding to the ongoing aggression by launching missile and drone attacks deep inside the kingdom.