Iran Would Welcome Saudi Overtures

Iran Would Welcome Saudi Overtures Iran Would Welcome Saudi Overtures

A lawmaker said the decision by Iran and Saudi Arabia to select the Swiss missions in the two countries to represent their interests is a positive move, noting that Tehran would welcome any initiative by Riyadh to help mend mutual ties.    

Alireza Rahimi, a member of Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said that "in case Saudi Arabia sends signals to Iran indicating that it is looking for rapprochement in political and diplomatic relations, the Islamic Republic will consider it in good faith," ICANA reported on Friday.

Switzerland's embassies in Riyadh and Tehran signed agreements to take care of Iranian interests in Saudi Arabia and Saudi interests in Iran, the Swiss government announced on Oct. 25.

Rahimi said the designation of the Swiss Embassy as the go-between in consular affairs could play a "positive and effective role in enhancing economic ties", stressing that Tehran-Riyadh relations should not end in full-scale cutoff.

Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia 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 the 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 Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr without due process in January 2016.

Riyadh severed ties with Tehran in January 2016 following angry protests against the execution outside its diplomatic premises in Tehran and Mashhad.  

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

Highlighting the helpful Saudi attitude regarding the 2016 hajj and the ongoing Iran-Saudi talks to provide visas for the minor hajj, or Umrah, Rahimi said that under the current circumstances, a communications channel needs to be maintained.

"The Swiss Embassy has been chosen so that it can help revive relations between the two countries and also meet the Iranian needs [in obtaining visas]," he said.

  No Interest in Confrontation

Iran has always called for peaceful solutions to regional issues and clarified that is not interested in confrontation with Saudi Arabia.

"We certainly hope that if we don't agree with each other about the situation in Yemen or about the situation in Syria, we can still work with each other to bring those conflicts to an end," said Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in July.

Iran's top diplomat wrote in an article in the Atlantic magazine in Oct. 11 that he believes Iran and other regional governments can agree on "win-win" solutions that do not result in the defeat of any side.  

"There's no reason we can't cooperate. To achieve this outcome, we should be erecting a working regional mechanism rather than laying more bricks in the wall of division," he said, noting that such a mechanism could greatly contribute to the promotion of stability and progress in the region.

"Iran will, in the meantime, continue on its own path of dialogue, mutual respect and understanding," Zarif added.

A US-backed Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen's civil war in 2015, trying to reinstall the fugitive president, Abd-Rabbu Mansur Hadi, who is close to Riyadh. Iran has strongly criticized the Saudi war on the impoverished nation, calling for an end to the war.

The oil kingdom is also supporting rebels and extremists trying to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while Iran and Russia back government forces who are fighting the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group and other militants.


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