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PoliticsSaudi Arabia

Iran's top diplomat meets Saudi Crown Prince as ties thaw

August 18, 2023

Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman has held an unscheduled meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. It is the highest-level talks since the countries reconciled in March.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (L) is being received by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Amirabdollahian met the crown prince in the Red Sea port city of JeddahImage: Iranian Foreign Ministry/AP/dpa/picture alliance

In a move that would have been unthinkable only months earlier, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman held talks with Iran's foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, in Jeddah on Friday. 

The Iranian diplomat met his Saudi counterpart on Thursday but extended his one-day visit to the kingdom to meet the man considered the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia.

Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud hold a press conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Amirabdollahian arrived Thursday in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, for meetings with his counterpart, Prince Faisal bin FarhanImage: AHMED YOSRI/REUTERS

Relations between the two regional rivals have steadily improved since a Chinese-brokered deal announced in March saw them reestablish diplomatic ties.

Shiite-dominated Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia severed ties in 2016 after the Saudi Embassy in Tehran was attacked during protests. The demonstrations were in response to Riyadh's execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

Iranian-Saudi relations thaw

Footage of the meeting on Iranian and Saudi state media showed the two men smiling as they spoke.

"Discussions were frank, beneficial, and productive," Amirabdollahian said in a social media post after the meeting.

He added they "agree on 'security and development for all' in the region."

Iran and Saudi Arabia have backed opposing sides in conflicts across the Middle East, including in Yemen, Syria, and Lebanon.

Iranian officials have, however, said that Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei sought to end political and economic isolation from the United States by establishing new relations with Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has lost confidence in the US commitment to regional security and sought to strengthen ties with China, which has maintained good relations with Iran.

lo/nm (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)