04/19/2021, 10.28
IRAN – S. ARABIA
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Baghdad mediates between Tehran and Riyadh

The Financial Times reports a first meeting between officials of the Islamic Republic and emissaries from the Wahhabi kingdom in the Iraqi capital on 9 April. Relations broke off in 2016 after the assault on the Saudi consulate in Iran. Issues on the agenda include nuclear power to the war in Yemen.

Baghdad (AsiaNews / Agencies) – There are new signs of a thaw in the Middle East, in spite of recent denials which have failed to quash reports that circulated over the weekend reported by the British Newspaper Financial Times, of an April 9 meeting in Bagdad between Iranian and Saudi officials.

It was the first such meeting in an attempt to renew diplomatic relations interrupted in January 2016.

Yesterday evening Arab News reported the comments of an anonymous Saudi official denying news of a meeting between the two Muslim powers, Sunni and Shiite, in Iraq. However, the declaration appears more of a ritual than event, while international diplomacies look with interest at movements in the region with a view to de-escalating tension.

There are several unresolved issues that see the two fronts opposed, starting from the war in Yemen to the Iranian nuclear dossier, with Tehran reopening the negotiating table while pushing uranium enrichment to 60%.

The Islamic Republic and the Wahhabi kingdom interrupted relations five years ago, following the assault on the Saudi consulate in Iran, in response to the execution of the Shiite leader Nimr al-Nimr.

The controversy triggered heavy repercussions at the regional level, particularly the economic, diplomatic and commercial isolation of Qatar considered too close to Tehran.

The meeting held on 9 April in Baghdad is only the first step in a long process aimed at re-tying the threads of diplomacy and did not foresee the participation of high-ranking officials.

Nonetheless it is a positive sign in a region where steeped in tension such as the recent accident at the nuclear plant, with suspicions falling on Israel, another actor interested in isolating what it considers the "Iranian threat".

Analysts and experts underline that unlike 2015, Riyadh wants to have a role in the negotiations that led to the Iranian nuclear agreement (JCPOA) and also involve the Gulf nations in the negotiations. Another actor at stake is Iraq, which is heading for the parliamentary elections in October amid outbreaks of violence, a new coronavirus pandemic and timid attempts at economic, diplomatic and cultural recovery after years of wars and violence, as evidenced also by the recent visit of Pope Francis.

According to Arab Analyst Tamer Badaoui, "if these talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia have taken place, the Iraqi Prime Minister's goal is twofold. The first is to show that his government is worthy of Tehran and Riyadh's confidence in facilitating these talks. If so, it would have succeeded where its predecessors failed”. Furthermore, Moustafa Kazimi "tries to limit Iraqi paramilitary groups with the help of Iran without having to force them to disarm or at least impose minimal pressure on them."

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