Iran, Saudis agree to resume ties; Kuwait welcomes development
CHINA BROKERS AGREEMENT IN MAJOR MIDEAST SHIFT
DUBAI, March 11, (Agencies): Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed on Friday to restore diplomatic relations and reopen embassies after seven years of tensions. The major diplomatic breakthrough negotiated with China lowers the chance of armed conflict between the Mideast rivals – both directly and in proxy conflicts around the region. The deal, struck in Beijing this week amid its ceremonial National People’s Congress, represents a major diplomatic victory for the Chinese as Gulf Arab states perceive the United States slowly withdrawing from the wider Middle East. It also comes as diplomats have been trying to end a long war in Yemen, a conflict in which both Iran and Saudi Arabia are deeply entrenched.
The two countries released a joint communique on the deal with China, which brokered the agreement as President Xi Jinping was awarded a third five-year term as leader earlier Friday. Xi, whose administration in recent days has relaunched a campaign to challenge the US-led Western liberal order with warnings of “conflict and confrontation,” was credited in a trilateral statement with facilitating the talks through a “noble initiative” and having personally agreed to Sponsor the negotiations that lasted from Monday through Friday. Videos showed Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, meeting with Saudi national security adviser Musaad bin Mohammed al-Aiban and Wang Yi, China’s most senior diplomat.
The statement calls for reestablishing ties and reopening embassies to happen “within a maximum period of two months.” A meeting by their foreign ministers is also planned. In the video, Wang could be heard offering “wholehearted congratulations” on the two countries’ “wisdom.” “Both sides have displayed sincerity,” he said. “China fully supports this agreement.” The United Nations welcomed the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement and thanked China for its role. “Good neighborly relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia are essential for the stability of the Gulf region,” UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said at UN headquarters. The US also welcomed “any efforts to help end the war in Yemen and de-escalate tensions in the Middle East region,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
However, the State Department offered a word of caution about an agreement in which America seems to have played no part: “Of course, it remains to be seen whether the Iranian regime will honor their side of the deal.” China, which last month hosted Iran’s hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi, is a top purchaser of Saudi oil. Xi visited Riyadh in December for meetings with oilrich Gulf Arab nations crucial to China’s energy supplies. However, it doesn’t provide the same military protections for Gulf Arab states as America, making Beijing’s involvement that much more notable. Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted Shamkhani as calling the talks “clear, transparent, comprehensive and constructive.” “Removing misunderstandings and the future-oriented views in relations between Tehran and Riyadh will lead to improving regional stability and security, as well as definitely increasing cooperation among Arabian Gulf nations and the world of Islam for managing current challenges,” Shamkhani said.
Al-Aiban thanked Iraq and Oman for mediating between Iran and the kingdom, according to his remarks carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency. “While we value what we have reached, we hope that we will continue to continue the constructive dialogue,” the Saudi official said. Tensions have long been high between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The kingdom broke ties with Iran in 2016 after protesters invaded Saudi diplomatic posts there. Saudi Arabia had executed a prominent Shiite cleric with 46 others days earlier, triggering the demonstrations. That came as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, then a deputy, began his rise to power. The son of King Salman, Prince Mohammed previously compared Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Nazi Germany’s Adolf Hitler, and threatened to strike Iran. Since then, the US unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018.
Iran has been blamed for a series of attacks after that, including one targeting the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry in 2019, temporarily halving the kingdom’s crude production. Kuwait welcomed Friday the Saudi-Iranian agreement to resume diplomatic relations and exchange ambassadors, according to a statement by the Foreign Ministry.
The ministry stated that Kuwait welcomes the Saudi-Iranian-Chinese statement today on a Saudi-Iranian agreement to resume diplomatic relations, reopen their embassies within a maximum period of two months, exchange ambassadors and activate the signed cooperation agreements. It commended the initiative of the people-friendly President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping to host and sponsor the Saudi-Iranian bilateral talks to reach this constructive agreement and the efforts made by the sisterly Republic of Iraq and Sultanate of Oman in hosting the serval rounds of dialogue that took place between both sides in 2021 and 2022.
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