Saudi Arabia-Iran rapprochement a positive sign - GulfToday

Saudi Arabia-Iran rapprochement a positive sign

Picture used for illustrative purpose only.

 The announcement on Friday in Beijing by Saudi Arabia, Iran and China that Riyadh and Tehran will restore diplomatic relations, re-open embassies and appoint ambassadors within two months is a positive development that will contribute to regional stability. The announcement was preceded by five days of closed-door talks between Saudi Arabia’s security adviser Musaad Bin Mohammed Al-Aiban and Iran’s Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi.

In the joint statement, Saudi Arabia and Iran thanked Iraq and Oman for hosting talks between the two countries in 2021 and 2022. The joint statement said, “The three countries declare that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran have reached an agreement that includes: Approving the resumption of diplomatic relations between them and the reopening of their embassies and representations within a maximum period of two months. Their emphasis includes respect for the sovereignty of states and non-interference in their internal affairs. They agreed that the foreign ministers of the two countries would hold a meeting to activate this, arrange the exchange of ambassadors, and discuss ways to strengthen relations between them. Each of the three countries expressed their keenness to make every effort to enhance regional and international peace and security.”

Dr. Anwar Gargash, diplomatic adviser to His Highness the President of the United Arab Emirates, welcomed the agreement. He said, “We welcome the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran to resume diplomatic relations between the two countries, and we appreciate the Chinese role in this regard. The UAE believes in the importance of positive communication and dialogue among the countries of the region towards consolidating the concepts of good neighbourliness and starting from a common ground to build a more stable future for all.” The United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, “Good neighbourly relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia are essential for the stability of the Gulf region.” He expressed appreciation for the role played by China in bringing about the agreement between the two countries.

Saudi Arabi and Iran are perceived to be rivals in the region and Shia-majority Iran and Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia are considered rivals in the war in Yemen, in Lebanon and in Syria. The agreement between the two countries is expected to lower tensions in the conflict zones in the region. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said “any efforts to help end the war in Yemen and de-escalate tensions in the Middle East region,” is welcome, referring to the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Interestingly, China has crucial relations with Saudi Arabia and Iran. Its oil imports from Saudi Arabia are the highest, and it has crucial trade relations with Iran. China and Iran also bond with each because of their implicit and explicit tensions with the United States. This is the first time that China has played a key mediatory role in international relations, and it has scored a tremendous success. Interestingly, Chinese President Xi Jinping was in Riyadh in December and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was in Beijing last month. It seems that China wants to use its position as the second largest economy next to the United States to play an active role in international relations. In this instance, China has economic and strategic stakes in Saudi Arabia and Iran. This would mean that China will be seen as a country that can play a positive role in world affairs. Up till now, China has been fully focused on its economic development, and its strategic interests in its part of the world, that is the South China Sea region. It could be expanding its diplomatic footprint along with its economic one.

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