Iran's Rouhani 'orders opening of talks with Saudi Arabia'

Iran's Rouhani 'orders opening of talks with Saudi Arabia'
3 min read
30 March, 2016
Iranian President Rouhani has given the order to open "serious" dialogue with Saudi Arabia to end the escalating tensions between the two countries, according to a senior Iranian official.
Saudi Arabia severed all links with the Islamic republic of Iran in January [Getty]

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ordered his Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to open new, serious communication with Saudi Arabia that could rebuild relations between the two states, a "high-ranking" Iranian source told pan-Arab daily al-Hayat.

The unnamed source said that despite the presence of circles in Tehran opposed to a return of relations between the two long-time rivals, Iranian foreign policy is "based on the country's supreme interests and national security".

"Relations with Arab and Islamic countries are the top priority on the foreign ministry's agenda, and Saudi Arabia is not exempted from this policy. Hopefully there will be a breakthrough in the next few weeks," he added.

The source also responded to Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir's statements on Sunday that Iran must change its "behaviour" towards his country if it wants normal ties with the oil-rich Sunni kingdom.

"The Rouhani government has always wanted to mend relations with Saudi Arabia based on a policy of mutual respect and common interests. But Saudi Arabia has to also try to create the appropriate setting for relations to be restored," he said.

The New Arab's Iran correspondent Farah al-Zaman expressed doubts on a possible restoration of relations.

"The Iranian foreign ministry has long been trying to resolve issues with Saudi Arabia; however, everything will depend on the Saudis taking the initiative. At the moment it does not seem as if Riyadh is serious about reconciliation, with the wars in Syria and Yemen still going on."

Calls for dialogue

On Saturday, Rouhani said that Tehran was not interested in maintaining tensions with Saudi Arabia, during a two-day visit to Pakistan.

"Saudi Arabia plays an important role in the Muslim world and if there is any problem between the two countries, it should be resolved through talks," he told reporters in Islamabad.

Rouhani also said that that dialogue between Syrian opposition groups and the Assad regime must continue to come up with a political solution to the five-year-old war.

On Sunday, the Saudi foreign minister also reiterated his country's long-standing demands for a resumption of diplomatic relations: Iran to refrain from interference in Arab and neighbouring countries and an end support of "terrorist cells" in the region, in reference to Iranian-backed groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

Saudi Arabia severed all links with the Islamic republic of Iran in January after angry mobs attacked the kingdom's embassy in Tehran and a consulate in second city Mashhad following Riyadh's execution of a prominent Shia Muslim cleric.

Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia and fellow Gulf nations also accuse Iran of supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen, as well as attempting to destabilise their own regimes.

They also support rebels in Syria's war while Tehran openly backs the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.