Iran has reached out to Saudi Arabia, by reassuring its regional rival that Tehran’s budding rapprochement with the West in the aftermath of the recently signed Geneva accord did not pose any threat to Kingdom.
During a whirlwind visit of a string of Persian Gulf monarchies, Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif invited Saudi Arabia to “ work together in order to promote peace and stability in the region”. “We look at Saudi Arabia as an important and influential country in the region”, AFP quoted Mr. Zarif as saying during his stop in Kuwait city.
The call for a thaw with Saudi Arabia follows the anticipation in Iran that a break in the 34 year cycle of hostility with the West that began after the 1979 Islamic Revolution may not be far away after the signing of the ice-breaking nuclear deal in Geneva. Yet, Tehran’s détente with the West can be undermined if the wealthy Saudi royals continue to use their considerable influence in the region to hurt Iranian interests in countries, such as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, by playing the sectarian card and encouraging violence.
Mr. Zarif assured Iran’s Gulf neighbours that the Geneva agreement “cannot be at the expense of any country in the region”. He added: “Be assured that the nuclear deal is in favour of the stability and security of the region.”
The foreign minister’s words of reassurance are significant, as prior to the Geneva accord, members of the Saudi establishment had made it clear that they stood opposed to the deal. In an interview with a British daily, The Times, Saudi ambassador to Britain, Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz warned that the Kingdom would not “sit idly by” if world powers failed to halt Iran’s nuclear programme.
The BBC had earlier reported that, “Saudi Arabia has invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects, and believes it could obtain atomic bombs at will.”
From Kuwait, the Iranian foreign minister travelled to Oman-the country that apparently hosted back channel talks between the Iranians and the Americans that paved the way for the Geneva rounds. On Monday, Mr. Zarif arrived in Qatar, a country, which shares a giant gas-field with Iran. Analysts say that talks are likely to cover a wider agenda for the Emirate has emerged as a regional heavyweight, especially after the onset of the Arab Spring. Qatar hosts Khalid Meshaal, the leader of the Palestinian Hamas, an organisation that has worked closely with Tehran in the past. Besides, Doha has also actively supported the uprising in Syria that has led to a major crisis, which, according to Mr. Zarif has no solution “except by a political settlement”.
Prior to his visit to the neighbouring petro-monarchies, Mr. Zarif had written an opinion piece in the Saudi-owned daily, Asharq Al-Awsat, where he stressed that “notwithstanding the focus on our interactions with the West, the reality is that our primary foreign policy priority is our region”.