Saudi, Iranian officials hold talks to patch up relations

Saudi and Iranian officials held direct talks this month in a bid to ease tensions between the two foes, a senior Iranian official and two regional sources said, as Washington works to revive a 2015 nuclear pact with Tehran and end the Yemen war.

The April 9 meeting in Iraq, first reported by the Financial Times on Sunday, did not lead to any breakthrough, the Iranian official and one of the regional sources familiar with the matter said.

The regional source said the meeting focused on Yemen, where a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthi group since March 2015.

“This was a low-level meeting to explore whether there might be a way to ease ongoing tensions in the region,” the Iranian official said, adding that it was based on Iraq’s request.

Iraq’s Prime Minister held talks with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince earlier this month and also visited the United Arab Emirates.

‘Lebanon discussed’

The second regional source said the talks also touched on Lebanon, which is facing a political vacuum amid a dire financial crisis. Gulf Arab states are alarmed by the expanding role of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.

The FT report said that a senior Saudi official denied there had been any talks with Iran.

Sunni Gulf power Saudi Arabia cut ties with Shi’ite Iran in January 2016 following the storming of its Embassy in Tehran in a row over Riyadh’s execution of a Shi’ite Muslim cleric.

A Western diplomat in the region said the U.S. and Britain were informed in advance of the Saudi-Iran talks but had “not seen the outcome”.

Washington and Tehran are holding indirect talks in Vienna to revive the world powers’ nuclear accord with Iran, which former U.S. President Donald Trump quit in 2018. Tehran has breached several nuclear restrictions after Mr. Trump reimposed sanctions.

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 9:23:47 PM |

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