Diplomatic Channel Required Interests Section in Saudi Arabia

Diplomatic Channel Required Interests Section in Saudi Arabia Diplomatic Channel Required Interests Section in Saudi Arabia

A lawmaker said Tehran chose Switzerland to represent its interests in Saudi Arabia, as it needed to have a "diplomatic channel" to pursue legal and political issues with Riyadh.

Mohammad Javad Jamali, a member of Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, added that "diplomatic and political relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran had been severed a long time ago, while a diplomatic channel to follow up on the issues was needed", ICANA reported on Sunday.

The Swiss government, which already handles US interests in Iran, said last week Switzerland's embassies in Riyadh and Tehran signed agreements to represent Iranian interests in Saudi Arabia and Saudi interests in Iran.

Jamali said other countries were also considered to act as an intermediary between the two sides, but Switzerland was chosen because of its remarkable potentials and experience in political and diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic.

Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia first soured after a deadly human crush during hajj rituals in Mina, near Mecca, in Sept. 2015, in which hundreds of Iranian pilgrims, among others, lost their lives. Iran did not send any pilgrims to hajj the next year after Riyadh refused to guarantee the safety of Iranian pilgrims.

Tensions between the two countries further escalated, when the kingdom executed a prominent Shia cleric without due process in January 2016.

Riyadh cut off ties with Tehran in January 2016 following angry protests in front of its diplomatic premises in the cities of Tehran and Mashhad against the execution.

However, there have been signals indicating the two sides are making some inroads into mending ties, especially after Riyadh changed its uncooperative policy regarding this year's hajj when Iranian pilgrims attended the religious ceremony without any major incident.

The parliamentarian stressed that one of the issues to be pursued through the interests section in Riyadh would be the 2015 Mina stampede.

Saudi Arabia put the death toll from the human crush in Mina at 770 and refused to update it despite the rise in fatality figures from countries whose nationals had been among the victims of the crush.

Iran said about 4,700 people, including over 465 of its nationals, lost their lives in the stampede.

Addressing the officials in charge of hajj in early August, Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said, "We will not forget the bitter incidents that took place in 2015. That incident created great sorrow in the heart of the Islamic ummah and in the hearts of us Iranians. That incident is not forgettable."

Jamali said "consular rights, arrested nationals and regional issues" would be other issues to be pursued via the interests section.

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