Saudi King invites Iranian President to Riyadh in bid to improve relations
The recently announced Saudi-Iran rapprochement may lead to a peace deal in Yemen
By News Desk - March 19 2023

Illustrative image of flags of Iran and Saudi Arabia (Photo Credit Getty images)

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has been invited to Riyadh by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, who expressed his desire to strengthen economic and regional cooperation between the two countries, Iran’s Tasnim reported on 19 March.

The invitation was confirmed by Mohammad Jamshidi, the Iranian President’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Political Affairs.

“His Excellency Salman bin Abdulaziz, the King of Saudi Arabia, in a letter to Ayatollah Raisi, while welcoming the agreement between the two brotherly countries, invited him to make an official visit to Riyadh and called for the strengthening of economic and regional cooperation,” Jamshidi tweeted.

“The president welcomed this invitation and emphasized Iran’s readiness to enhance cooperation,” Jamshidi added.

According to Tasnim, “This invitation is seen as a significant step towards improving relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia after the two Muslim nations recently agreed to resume diplomatic relations, reopen embassies, and revive previous cooperation accords.”

The rapprochement has raised hopes of a peaceful resolution to the war in Yemen, as the Ansarallah resistance movement, against which Saudi Arabia has been at war since 2014, is viewed by Riyadh as an Iranian proxy.

When asked about the Yemen conflict at a press conference on 19 March, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian explained that Tehran believes that the Yemeni issue relates only to the people of Yemen.

“However, emphasis on peace in the region was among the agreements between Tehran and Riyadh,” Amir-Abdollahian noted, and will be the subject of further talks between the two Islamic nations.

In this regard, UN Special Envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg told the UN Security Council on 15 March that “Intense diplomatic efforts are ongoing at different levels to bring the conflict in Yemen to an end” and that “we are currently witnessing renewed regional diplomatic momentum, as well as a step change in the scope and depth of the discussions.”

One motivation for Saudi Arabia to resume relations with Iran and seek a peace deal in Yemen with Ansarallah is Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman’s (MBS) efforts to diversify the Saudi economy, moving it away from oil towards tourism, infrastructure, and entertainment, as well as to make Saudi Arabia a major trade hub that connects Europe, Asia, and Africa.

This includes the establishment of a new airline, Riyadh Air, for which MBS recently spent £30bn on a fleet of 72 Boeing jets. The order was Boeing’s fifth biggest ever.

Riyadh’s King Khalid airport is also being renovated in the hope that the airport will eclipse those in Dubai and Doha.

The UK’s Telegraph noted that “Tensions in the region between the two countries [Iran and Saudi Arabia] would have made Saudi plans to take control of the skies above the Middle East difficult.”

In March 2022, Deutsche Welle (DW) reported that a high-profile strike on an oil depot in Jeddah that month by Ansarallah drones and ballistic missiles “has underlined Saudi Arabia’s military defense vulnerability — and threatens its reputation as a global investment location.”

Most Popular