Riyadh Denies Reports on Better Ties

Riyadh Denies Reports on Better TiesRiyadh Denies Reports on Better Ties

The Saudi Foreign Ministry denied as "untrue" and "baseless" recent reports claiming that the newly appointed foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir had expressed a desire to improve relations with Tehran.

"Since his appointment as foreign minister, Jubeir has never talked to the media and reports to this effect are untrue and baseless," the foreign ministry spokesman, Osama Nugali, said in a statement in Riyadh on Sunday, Tasnim news agency reported.

Sections of the media had earlier quoted Jubeir as expressing readiness to travel to Tehran to hold talks with Iranian officials on issues such as the Yemeni crisis.

"The recent conflict in Yemen, the war in Syria, the Lebanese crisis and … are all related to Iran, and Iran can help resolve these issues," Jubeir was quoted by the Saudi-owned  Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper as saying Saturday.

It quoted him as further stating that "We have reached the conclusion that we should interact with Tehran to help remove the rifts and obstacles in the way (of improving Riyadh-Tehran ties) and coordinate efforts (to address regional problems)."

"Europe and the United States fully subscribe to this conclusion" and China and Russia should also take steps to facilitate interaction with Iran.

"If the US and Europe want reconciliation with Iran, it is not wise that we avoid reconciliation…. This is not in our interest," the Saudi foreign minister reportedly said. Elsewhere, he recalled that Iran has no internal problems and stability exists all along its borders with its neighbors.

He expressed support for negotiations between Iran and the major powers over Tehran's nuclear program, saying that the prospective deal between the two sides would also help serve the interest of regional countries.

The minister was referring to the sensitive final-phase talks underway between Iran and the six major powers (the five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany) on Tehran's nuclear energy program that the West claims is a cover to develop a nuclear weapon. Iran strongly denies the charge and has declared that the program is geared to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

Jubeir is a former Saudi ambassador to Washington and was promoted to the top post late last month by King Salman following a rare reshuffle of the government in the world's top oil exporting country. He replaced the ailing Prince Saud al-Faisal who served as the top diplomat for four decades.

Ties between Tehran and Riyadh have been tense over the past few years as the governments stand on the opposite of the crises in the region, namely in Bahrain, Syria and more recently in Yemen. For more than a month, Saudi Arabia has been leading a brutal military campaign in impoverished Yemen to dislodge the Houthis who are demanding a fair share in running state affairs in Sana'a.  The Saudi-led airstrikes have so far killed more than 1,000 Yemenis, namely women and children.