Two of the most powerful and influential Muslim countries in the world – Iran and Saudi Arabia – have agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations and reopen their embassies within two months.
The agreement was reached on Friday during talks under the sponsorship of China in Beijing.
It was signed by Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, Saudi National Security Adviser Musaad bin Mohammed al-Aiban, and Wang Yi, China’s most senior diplomat.
A joint statement from Saudi Arabia and Iran said the two countries had agreed to respect state sovereignty and not interfere in each other’s internal affairs. It also said Riyadh and Tehran had agreed to activate a security cooperation agreement signed in 2001.
The statement talked about a shared desire to resolve disagreements through dialogue and diplomacy in light of brotherly ties.
It said: “The delegations from the two countries held talks during the period 6-10 March 2023 in Beijing — the delegation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia headed by His Excellency Dr Musaad bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, Minister of State, Member of the Council of Ministers, and National Security Adviser, and the delegation of the Islamic Republic of Iran headed by His Excellency Admiral Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran…
“The three countries announce that an agreement has been reached between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran, that includes an agreement to resume diplomatic relations between them and reopen their embassies and missions within a period not exceeding two months, and the agreement includes their affirmation of the respect for the sovereignty of states and the non-interference in internal affairs of states. They also agreed that the ministers of foreign affairs of both countries shall meet to implement this, arrange for the return of their ambassadors, and discuss means of enhancing bilateral relations.
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“They also agreed to implement the Security Co-operation Agreement between them, which was signed on 22/1/1422 (H), corresponding to 17/4/2001, and the General Agreement for Co-operation in the Fields of Economy, Trade, Investment, Technology, Science, Culture, Sports, and Youth, which was signed on 2/2/1419 (H), corresponding to 27/5/1998.
“The three countries expressed their keenness to exert all efforts towards enhancing regional and international peace and security.”
Riyadh broke off ties with Tehran in 2016 after protesters invaded Saudi diplomatic posts in Iran. Saudi Arabia had executed a prominent Shia Muslim scholar days earlier, triggering the demonstrations.
Shia-majority Iran and Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia support rival sides in several conflict zones across the Middle East, including in Yemen, where the Houthi rebels are backed by Tehran and Riyadh leads a military coalition supporting the government in exile.
Besides the war in Yemen, Iran and Saudi Arabia also are on rival sides in Lebanon and Syria. Improved relations between Tehran and Riyadh, therefore, could have an effect on politics across the Middle East.