TEHRAN (Iran News) – In its first reaction to the recent remarks by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, Iran welcomed the change in Saudi Arabia’s tone, expressing hope of a beginning for convergence among Muslim countries.
“By presenting proposals and initiatives for dialogue and cooperation in the Persian Gulf region, including the Hormuz Peace Endeavour (HOPE), the Islamic Republic of Iran has been a pioneer in the path of amity and regional cooperation, and welcomes the change in Saudi Arabia’s tone,” Saeed Khatibzadeh, spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, said in a statement on Thursday.
The statement came in response to a recent interview by the Saudi crown prince in which he expressed willingness to mend ties with Iran.
“At the end of the day, Iran is a neighboring country. All we ask for is to have a good and distinguished relationship with Iran,” Mohammad bin Salman said on Tuesday.
“We do not want the situation with Iran to be difficult. On the contrary, we want it to prosper and grow as we have Saudi interests in Iran, and they have Iranian interests in Saudi Arabia, which is to drive prosperity and growth in the region and the entire world,” he added.
At the same time, the Saudi crown prince highlighted “problems” with Iran, hoping that his country would be able to overcome these problems.
“We are working now with our partners in the region and the world to find solutions for these problems. We really hope we would overcome them and build a good and positive relationship with Iran that would benefit all parties,” bin Salman said.
Khatibzadeh said Tehran and Riyadh can open a new chapter of cooperation.
“Iran and Saudi Arabia, as two important countries in the region and the Muslim world, can enter a new chapter of interaction and cooperation to achieve regional peace, stability, and development by adopting constructive and dialogue-based approaches,” the spokesman said.
Khatibzadeh finally expressed hope that the holy month of Ramadan, the month of divine mercy, would be a blessed beginning for convergence among the Islamic society and end of war, displacement, and insecurity in this region.
The recent thaw in Iranian-Saudi relations comes against a backdrop of renewed diplomacy between the two regional powerhouses.
Western media outlets have reported in recent weeks that officials from Iran and Saudi Arabia held direct talks in Baghdad for the first time since the two regional rivals severed diplomatic ties in 2016.
The Financial Times reported that Saudi and Iranian officials held the first round of their bilateral talks in Baghdad on April 9 and the next round was scheduled to take place in the coming weeks. Citing regional officials, the newspaper said the Yemeni Ansarallah’s attacks on Saudi Arabia were discussed in the negotiations.
Reuters confirmed the Saudi-Iranian talks, saying they touched on Lebanon, which is facing a political vacuum amid a dire financial crisis.
Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 after Iranian protesters, enraged by the Saudi execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimer al-Nimr, stormed its embassy in Tehran. Since then, Saudi Arabia has struck a tough tone on Iran and strongly supported former U.S. President Donald Trump’s so-called “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.
But tensions in Saudi-Iranian relations seem to be coming to an end at least for now. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has embarked on a regional tour that included Qatar, Iraq, Oman, and Kuwait. During his trip to these counties, the chief Iranian diplomat discussed ways to reduce tensions in the region. He once again presented the Iranian peace initiative Hormuz Peace Endeavor (HOPE), which is aimed to foster dialogue and security in the region.