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Iran and Saudi Arabia formalized Thursday the reopening of their diplomatic representations within two months, during a meeting in Beijing, after years of tension between the two Middle Eastern powers.
Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers met on Thursday, April 6, in Beijing to implement the normalization of relations between the two Middle Eastern powers after years of tension.
Iranian Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Saudi Faisal bin Farhane “negotiated and exchanged opinions with emphasis on the official resumption of bilateral relations and the steps to be taken in view of the reopening of the embassies and consulates of the two countries “, said the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The two ministers “also discussed bilateral issues”, he added.
Saudi Arabia and Iran surprised the world by announcing on March 10 that they wanted to restore their diplomatic relations within two months, following talks conducted secretly in China.
Chinese state television CCTV on Thursday hailed “the first official meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries in more than seven years”, a breakthrough achieved “under the active mediation of China”.
This rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia should allow them to reopen their embassies by mid-May, and to implement economic and security cooperation agreements signed more than 20 years ago.
It should be formally celebrated during a visit by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Riyadh at the invitation of King Salman of Saudi Arabia, a trip planned after Ramadan in late April.
This climate of relaxation could have repercussions on several regional conflicts, particularly in Syria and Yemen, where the two countries support opposing camps.
>> To read on France 24: The rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, a first step for peace in Yemen?
The conclusion of the agreement in Beijing in March marks China’s growing commitment to the Middle East, while the country has until now been seen as reluctant to get involved in the region’s thorny issues.
Iran and Saudi Arabia thanked China in March “for hosting and supporting the discussions” between them.
They also highlighted the mediating role played by Iraq and the Sultanate of Oman from spring 2021.
The United States for its part “welcomed” the March 10 announcement, while stressing that it remained “to be seen whether Iran would fulfill its obligations”.
“As China is a strong supporter of Iran, Saudi Arabia should be reassured that Iran will abide by the deal,” said Joel Rubin, a former US deputy undersecretary of state.
Thursday’s meeting “suggests that the process has not gone out of hand since Beijing’s announcement last month,” said Ali Vaez, Iran specialist at the International Crisis Group.
“But it is still too early to know whether this is a tactical detente or a step towards a strategic rapprochement.”
For some experts, this agreement could represent a paradigm shift that would challenge the traditional domination in the Middle East of Washington, sworn enemy of Iran.
An ally of the United States and another adversary of Iran, Israel observes with concern this rapprochement between Ryad and Tehran, which could affect the Abraham Accords, the normalization process it has launched with certain Arab countries.
In parallel with negotiations with Riyadh, Tehran is seeking to renew ties with other capitals which, to support Saudi Arabia, had reduced their diplomatic ties since 2016.
In recent months, the Emirates and Kuwait have resumed diplomatic relations with Iran. The process is under way with Bahrain, and Egypt could follow.
On Tuesday, Tehran appointed an ambassador to Abu Dhabi after nearly eight years of absence, while the Emirates announced in August the dispatch of an ambassador to Tehran with the stated desire to “strengthen relations” with Iran .