UN Envoy Hopes for Wider Tehran-Riyadh Talks

UN Envoy Hopes for Wider Tehran-Riyadh Talks  UN Envoy Hopes for Wider Tehran-Riyadh Talks

Iran's first-ever participation in international talks on Syria could lead to wider negotiations between major regional players Tehran and Riyadh on the conflicts in Yemen and Iraq, a United  Nations official says.

"I strongly believe that at some time there must be direct dialogue between [Persian] Gulf countries, mainly Saudi Arabia and Iran," said the UN special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

"They are neighbors and they have every reason to agree," he said in a telephone interview with AFP, asked about the prospects of wider talks encompassing conflicts in Yemen and Iraq.

He was talking as top diplomats from 17 countries, as well as the United Nations and European Union, held talks Friday in Vienna seeking a political path out of Syria's four-year-old conflict.

Iran, a longtime backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is taking part for the first time in such talks, months after it struck a landmark nuclear deal with world powers.

The UN diplomat said Iran "will open up economically and will need a large market like the [Persian] Gulf" under the July deal placing time-bound limits on Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.

Sectarian disputes between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia "appear exaggerated", said Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

The two Persian Gulf heavyweights are at odds in various regional conflicts.

In Syria, Saudi Arabia supports the rebels fighting Assad, who has financial and military support from Tehran, while in Yemen, Riyadh has led a military campaign against Iran-backed Shia Houthi fighters.