Saudi Arabia and Iran met in China today to hold their first high-level talks following a Beijing-brokered deal to resume diplomatic relations after a seven-year hiatus.
“The two sides agreed to expand cooperation in every field that can help the security and stability of the region and meet the interests of its nations and countries,” foreign ministers from each nation said in a statement following the talks.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian wrote on Twitter that ministers had a “positive” meeting that had a “common agenda” that included economic and commercial cooperation, the reopening of embassies and consulates and “the emphasis on stability, sustainable security and development of the region.”
Other topics included plans to resume direct flights and ease the visa process for each country, the Financial Times reported.
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Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, left, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, middle, during their meeting in Beijing April 6, 2023. (Saudi Press Agency/Handout via Reuters)
Amir-Abdollahian met with Saudi’s Prince Faisal Bin Farhan in Beijing with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang helping to oversee the talks. Qin stressed the need for the two nations to rid themselves of “interference” and maintain control of the region’s future.
Saudi Arabia and Iran, the leading Sunni and Shi’ite powers in the Middle East, ended peaceful relations in 2016 after the execution of a Shi’ite cleric, followed by disagreements resulting from the Yemen war.
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Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, right, meets with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud in Beijing April 6, 2023. (Iran’s Foreign Ministry/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via Reuters)
China helped broker the deal in March in a major diplomatic coup that analysts argued would provide Beijing a strong foothold for influence in the region.
“That a potential Iran-Saudi diplomatic restoration was brokered by China should be a surprise to none,” Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow and Iran expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Fox News Digital at the time. “China is the biggest trade partner of both sides of the Persian Gulf, thanks to its hunger for hydrocarbons and energy from the region.”
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Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, left, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, right, and Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang during their meeting in Beijing, China, April 6, 2023. (Saudi Press Agency/Handout via Reuters)
“That Riyadh is seeking this agreement through Iran’s partner, Beijing, and not Iran’s adversary, Washington, tells you all you need to know about how much the JCPOA has damaged the impression in Saudi that America can meaningfully constrain the Islamic Republic,” he added.
The U.S. welcomed the deal, saying that, “Generally speaking, we welcome any efforts to help end the war in Yemen and deescalate tensions in the Middle East region.”
However, Washington remains wary of growing tech and security ties between China and the Gulf nations, according to the FT.
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It also remains unclear what impact the talks will have on peace-making efforts in Yemen, but a joint statement from Tehran and Riyadh indicated plans to revive a 2001 security deal that would require both sides to cooperate on tackling a number of criminal operations, including terrorism and smuggling.
Reuters contributed to this report.