FILE PHOTO: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud speaks during a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on 22 March, 2021. (REUTERS/Ahmed Yosri)
On 19 February, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, speaking on the sidelines of the 58th Munich Security Conference (MSC), reiterated the kingdom’s commitment to repairing diplomatic relations with Iran.
Explaining that preparations are currently underway to organize a fifth round of direct talks between Riyadh and Tehran, the Saudi minister said: “The kingdom is interested in a positive relationship with Iran including a relationship that delivers benefits for both of us. So we are not just interested in some political détente, but we are interested in a relationship.”
Prince Faisal’s comments come just weeks after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi reaffirmed his government’s commitment to the dialogue process between the two countries. Raisi was however quick to point out that the talks must be held in an “environment of mutual respect and understanding.”
The two regional powers have to date held four rounds of talks in Baghdad, Iraq’s capital city, in an attempt to restore diplomatic relations that were severed in 2016. Ties were cut after Saudi authorities executed well-known Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr and angry protestors attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran.
Relations between Riyadh and Tehran have been frosty for many years over a variety of regional political issues. These include the seven-year war on Yemen launched by a Saudi-led coalition to overthrow and replace the government in Sanaa with Saudi-backed former president Abd Mansour Hadi.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly accused Iran of providing military support and equipment to the Yemeni armed forces, but has failed to produce any evidence to back its allegations.