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Saudi delegation in Iran to discuss embassy reopening

April 8, 2023

The delegation's visit comes two days after a meeting in Beijing between the foreign ministers of Iran and Saudi Arabia. The two countries severed diplomatic ties seven years ago.

Iranian and Saudi delegations at meeting in Beijing
A Saudi Arabian delegation is in Iran two days after a meeting in Beijing (pictured), when the two traditional rivals agreed to reopen diplomatic missionsImage: Wana News Agency/REUTERS

Officials from Saudi Arabia arrived in Tehran on Saturday to discuss the reopening of embassies and consulates.

The delegation's visit comes two days after the foreign ministers of Iran and Saudi Arabia met for talks in Beijing.

In March, the two traditional rivals announced the plan to reestablish diplomatic ties, which had been severed for seven years.

The delegation is set to discuss the reopening of the Saudi embassy in Tehran and the consulate in the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad.

The kingdom's state news agency, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), cited Prince Faisal bin Farhan, also the foreign minister, as saying that the visit was part of broader efforts to "implement the tripartite agreement," referring to the China-brokered deal on restoring ties.

SPA said that a Saudi "technical delegation" met Iran's chief of protocol, Mehdi Honardoust, at the Foreign Ministry in Tehran.

Saudi Arabian embassy building in Tehran, Iran
Saudi Arabia shut its embassy in Tehran after protesters attacked the missionImage: Fatemeh Bahrami/AA/picture alliance

Why did Saudi Arabia and Iran sever diplomatic ties?

The two countries severed ties after protesters in Iran attacked the Saudi diplomatic missions. Protesters were demonstrating against Riyadh's execution of a prominent Shiite Muslim cleric.

Shiite-majority Iran and Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia are traditional geopolitical rivals in the Middle East and have supported opposing sides in the civil war in Syria and Yemen.

Also on Saturday, Omani mediators arrived in Yemeni capital Sanaa to discuss a potential cease-fire between the Houthi rebels, who are supported by Iran, and Saudi Arabia, which backs Yemen's internationally recognized government.

The Agence France-Presse (AFP) news agency cited Rabha Saif Allam, specialist in Middle Eastern affairs at the Cairo Center for Strategic Studies, as saying that there had been an "acceleration" in meetings at the "economic and security levels" between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

She said that she believed that the two countries would definitively normalize their ties during Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi's planned visit to Riyadh at the end of the month.

sdi/msh (AFP, Reuters)