Tehran hopes for restored ties with Riyadh, hails Syria-Turkiye entente

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian on Friday expressed hope that diplomatic ties between Tehran and Riyadh can be restored through dialogue between the two regional powers.

Amir-Abdollahian said he hoped diplomatic missions or embassies in Tehran and Riyadh will reopen within the framework of dialogue that should continue between the two countries, as he expressed these in Beirut during his visit to Lebanon.

He also hailed a potential rapprochement between Iranian ally Syria and Turkiye, after their defence ministers met last month.

“We are happy with this dialogue that is taking place between Syria and Turkiye,” he told a news conference. “We believe that this dialogue should have positive repercussions benefitting these two countries.”

Since April 2021, Iraq has hosted a series of fence-mending meetings between the two countries, but the talks have stalled in recent months, and no meetings have been publicly announced since April 2022.

Syria’s pro-government Al-Watan newspaper said Amir-Abdollahian was also set to visit Damascus on Saturday, at a time of warming ties between Syria and Turkiye.

Ankara had long backed rebels opposed to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s rule, but after over a decade of war that has seen the government claw back territory with Russian and Iranian support, ties between the two countries have begun to thaw.

In late December, the defence ministers of Turkiye and Syria held landmark negotiations in Moscow.

Assad had said on Thursday that a Moscow-brokered rapprochement with Turkiye should aim for the end of occupation by Ankara of parts of Syria.

However, Iran Press TV quoted him as saying that Tehran was determined to restore relations with Saudi Arabia but Riyadh seemingly lacked the required readiness.

“Saudi Arabia is still not ready to return to normal relations. We have the needed intention and will to normalize with Saudi Arabia. If such an intention is seen in the real sense on the Saudi side, the normalization of relations will be quick and achievable,” Amir-Abdollahian said.

All bets off

Last week, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said Iran’s Gulf Arab neighbours would act to shore up their security if Tehran were to obtain nuclear weapons.

“If Iran gets an operational nuclear weapon, all bets are off,” Prince Faisal said in an interview at the World Policy Conference in Abu Dhabi when asked about such a scenario.

“We are in a very dangerous space in the region … you can expect that regional states will certainly look towards how they can ensure their own security.”

The nuclear talks have stalled with Western powers accusing Iran of raising unreasonable demands and focus shifting to the Russia-Ukraine war as well as domestic unrest in Iran over the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

Though Riyadh remained “sceptical” about the Iran nuclear deal, Prince Faisal said it supported efforts to revive the pact “on condition that it be a starting point, not an end point” for a stronger deal with Tehran.

Gulf Arab states have pressed for a stronger agreement that addresses their concerns about Iran’s missiles, drones programme and network of regional proxies. “The signs right now are not very positive, unfortunately,” Prince Faisal said.

“We hear from the Iranians that they have no interest in a nuclear weapons programme, it would be very comforting to be able to believe that. We need more assurance on that level.”

A senior Emirati official said on Saturday that there was an opportunity to revisit “the whole concept” of the nuclear pact given the current spotlight on Tehran’s weapons with Western states accusing Russia of using Iranian drones to attack targets in Ukraine.

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