Iran’s semiofficial news agency ISNA reported Thursday that Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to reopen diplomatic missions in their respective capitals and in additional cities. There was no immediate official confirmation of the report.
As part of the reported deal, the two sides would also study the prospects of resuming flights between the two nations and facilitating the visa process for the citizens of both countries. Saudi Arabia and Iran are longtime regional rivals, but have moved toward reconciliation as part of a deal brokered by China last month.
If confirmed, the agreement would represent a new step toward reconciliation after seven years of tension. The rapprochement, which was initiated last month, lowers the chance of armed conflict between the Mideast rivals – both directly and in proxy conflicts around the region.
The initial reconciliation agreement was brokered by Beijing in March.
It represents a major diplomatic victory for the Chinese as Gulf Arab states perceive the United States slowly withdrawing from the wider Middle East. It also comes as diplomats have been trying to end a long war in Yemen, a conflict in which both Iran and Saudi Arabia are deeply entrenched.
On Thursday morning, Saudi Arabia’s state-run Al-Ekhbariya TV showed Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amirabdollahian, shaking hands and sitting side by side. Iran’s state TV said the two ministers met to discuss the details of reopening embassies.
It was the first formal meeting of senior diplomats from the two nations since 2016, when the kingdom broke ties with Iran after protesters invaded Saudi diplomatic posts there. Saudi Arabia had executed a prominent Shiite cleric with 46 others days earlier, triggering the demonstrations.