Riyadh: climate of 'hope' from exploratory talks with Tehran

Negotiations "in the initial phase" but give reason for optimism. The presidential elections in Tehran in June should not affect foreign policy, determined by Khamenei. A turning point also caused by the change of US administration.


Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Riyadh, the highest Sunni power in the Middle East, expresses "hope" regarding the recent exploratory talks with Shiite neighbour Iran according to a statement from the Saudi Foreign Ministry. It was a rare - and explicit - comment referring to the discussions between the two nations in recent weeks and around which strict confidentiality is maintained on form and content.

The meetings, at the level of senior officials, aim to restore diplomatic relations interrupted five years ago between the Wahhabi kingdom and the Shiite Republic of Iran. “"We have initiated some exploratory talks. They are at a very early stage but we are hopeful," Prince Faisal bin Farhan said in Paris on Tuesday, where he is participating in two international summits.

The meetings with Iran, favoured by the intervention of the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi, remained secret until the revelations of the Financial Times which spoke of the first meeting which took place on April 9 in Baghdad. On May 10, Tehran confirmed the face-to-face, adding that it is "too early" for an evaluation of the results.

"If (the Iranians) can see that their interest is in a good relationship with their neighbours, I can be hopeful," Prince Faisal said, emphasising again that they were "at an early stage". Asked about the possible repercussions from the June presidential elections in Tehran, the Saudi chief of diplomacy says it should minimal.

"Our understanding of Iran's foreign policy is that it's set by the Supreme Leader," he explained. "So we don't think there will be a substantial change." "There may be a change in the representatives that portray that policy, but in the end, it's what happens on the ground that matters, and that is driven by the Supreme Leader."

The two Middle Eastern powers are on opposite sides in many dossiers affecting the region, from Yemen to Syria. However, in April the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) said he wanted "good" relations with Tehran, showing a conciliatory tone and a face marked by dialogue.

A turning point also determined by the change of administration in Washington, with the passage of the policy of "maximum pressure" with sanctions imposed by the Republican Donald Trump towards Iran, in the attempt to relaunch the nuclear agreement with the arrival of the White House by Democrat Joe Biden.