Saudi Arabia and Iran announced on Friday, March 10 that they have agreed to reestablish diplomatic ties after seven years of hostility- a deal between the regional arch-rivals that could have wide-ranging implications for the Middle East.
In a joint statement Riyadh and Tehran said they plan to reopen their embassies within two months in an agreement mediated by China.
They also plan to re-implement a security pact signed 22 years ago under which both parties agreed to cooperate on terrorism, drug-smuggling and money-laundering, as well as reviving a trade and technology deal from 1998.
Friday’s announcement is also a diplomatic victory for China in the middle east region that has long been considered part of the US’ domain of influence. It comes as the Biden administration tries to create its own win in the Middle East brokering a peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Talks had been ongoing since March 6 in Beijing between Iranian national security chief Ali Shamkhani, Saudi national security council adviser Mosaed Bin Mohammad Al-Aiban and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi, according to Iranian state media.
Video of the signing ceremony aired by Iranian media showed officials seated around tables on opposite sides with the Saudi Arabian, Iranian and Chinese flags around them.
“We will continue to play a constructive role in properly handling hotspot issues in today’s world in accordance with the wishes of all countries and demonstrate our responsibility as a major country,” Wang said, adding that Chinese President Xi Jinping supported it since the beginning.
In a push back to American influence on world politics, Wang said that “the world is not limited to the Ukraine issue” while emphasizing that the fate of the Middle East should be determined by the people of the Middle East.
“The foreign ministers of the two countries will meet each other to implement this decision and make necessary arrangements for the exchange of ambassadors,” the joint statement said. “The two sides agree to respect the sovereignty and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.”
Saudi Arabia and Iran had previously held talks aimed at reconciliation in Oman and Iraq.
Riyadh severed ties with Tehran in 2016 after Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in the Iranian capital following the execution of a Shi’ite cleric in Saudi Arabia. Since then, they have fought a proxy war that has embroiled a number of neighboring countries mostly Yemen, bringing the region ever closer to war.
In Yemen, the two countries have supported opposite sides of a civil war that has been described by the United Nations as one the world’s worst humanitarian crises. From there, the Houthi rebels have fired missiles at both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, targeting oil infrastructure that is vital to their economies.
The deal also comes as Iran finds itself increasingly isolated on the global stage as talks to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear pact with world powers are frozen and relations with Western states have faced further strains due to the Islamic Republic’s brutal crackdown on protests that started in September.
Iran’s main international ally Russia is preoccupied with the war in Ukraine, while China, its other ally, has lately been courting Tehran’s archrival Saudi Arabia.
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