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Iran Open to Engagement With Saudis

Iran Open to Engagement With Saudis Iran Open to Engagement With Saudis

President Hassan Rouhani reiterated the readiness to work toward a detente with Saudi Arabia, in a sign of goodwill in the Islamic Republic's foreign policy.

"Iran has been striving to engage in better relations with other regional countries. Our ties with neighbors, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Armenia, Turkey, Iraq and other surrounding countries, even Kuwait and Oman in the south, have improved," the president was quoted as saying by his official website.

"Our policy revolves around efforts to promote relations with our neighbors and even with Saudi Arabia. If they [Saudis] are ready, we are also ready to help mend the fences."

He made the announcement at a press conference in Tehran on Monday.

The chief executive stressed the need to build on the progress made toward the restoration of hajj ties and called on the Saudi side to cease its airstrikes against Yemen.

"I am hopeful that good steps taken on the hajj issue would serve as a prelude to improved relations. I wish Saudi Arabia would desist from its illegitimate attack against Yemen, which would definitely prove helpful in normalizing the ties."

Riyadh and Tehran have locked horns in conflicts across the war-stricken region, including in Syria and Yemen.

Saudi Arabia, backed by a number of African and Persian Gulf Arab states, has been conducting a massive, bloody air campaign against the forces of the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement and those loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh for over two years, in an attempt to reinstall Saleh's ousted successor Abd-Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.

The Islamic Republic, while advocating the cause of the Houthi movement, has dismissed allegations of providing arms support to the group.

A couple of deadly disasters in 2015, namely a human crush during the hajj pilgrimage and a crane crash in the Grand Mosque during a storm happening only weeks apart, and the incompetence of the Saudi organizers in handling them further muddied the waters between the two Muslim powerhouses.

While fatality figures announced by the Muslim countries that retrieved the bodies of dead pilgrims pointed to a number exceeding 4,000, Riyadh put the death toll at 769 and refused to update it.

More than 460 Iranians lost their lives in the stampede and 11 in the crane collapse during a storm.

Iran boycotted the last year's annual ritual in response, citing the Saudis' failure to guarantee the safety of Iranian pilgrims. Iranians skipped the 2016 pilgrimage.

Ultimately, the storming of the Saudi diplomatic posts in the early days of last year by Iranian protestors enraged over the kingdom's execution of top Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr dealt a fatal setback to already fraught relations.

Riyadh seized upon the embassy attack to cut diplomatic contact with its regional archrival.

But ties have shown signs of improvement since an Iranian hajj delegation resumed negotiations with Saudis earlier this year.

Riyadh said in March all arrangements were in place for the Iranians to attend the event.

 

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