Saudi Arabia and Iran to 'exchange diplomatic visits'

Saudi Arabia and Iran to 'exchange diplomatic visits'
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif suggests that a thaw in relations between Tehran and Riyadh may be underway with plans for diplomatic visits set to take place soon.
2 min read
24 August, 2017
Iran and Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties in 2016 [AFP]

Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said that Tehran and Riyadh Arabia will soon exchange diplomatic visits, according to the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA).

Zarif said the visits could take place following the conclusion of the annual Hajj pilgrimage in the first week of September.

"The visas have been issued for both sides to make this trip," Zarif said in an interview with ISNA.

"We are waiting for the final steps to be completed so diplomats from the two countries can inspect their embassies and consulates," he added.

The diplomatic exchange would be the first significant sign of an easing in relations between Tehran and Riyadh since diplomatic ties were severed in 2016.

Relations soured between the two states over mutual accusations of meddling in regional affairs, particularly in the conflcts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen

Last year, Saudi Arabia also executed prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr after accusing the religious leader of working as an agent of Tehran.

In response to the cleric's controversial killing, Iranian protesters raided Saudi Arabia's Tehran embassy, causing diplomatic ties to sour further.

Tehran also accuses Riyadh of supporting Islamic State group operatives who perpetrated a twin attack in the Iranian capital in June.

Saudi Arabia denied involvement in the attacks, which killed at least 18 people and wounded a further 80.

In August, Zarif and his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir caught international media attention when they were spotted having an informal exchange on the sidelines of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in Istanbul.

The Iranian foreign minister later downplayed the meeting's significance by describing it as a "diplomatic norm".