After years of open hostility and proxy conflicts across the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Iran have agreed to re-establish diplomatic ties, they announced on Friday, in a significant pivot for the two regional rivals that was facilitated by China.
China hosted the talks that led to the breakthrough, highlighting Beijing’s growing role as a global economic and political power, and counterbalance to Washington — particularly in the Middle East, a region that was long shaped by the military and diplomatic involvement of the United States.
Seven years after cutting formal ties, Iran and Saudi Arabia will reopen embassies in each other’s countries within two months, and confirmed their “respect for the sovereignty of states and noninterference in their internal affairs,” they said in a joint statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency. Iran’s state news media also announced the deal.
The two countries agreed to reactivate a lapsed security cooperation pact — a shift that comes after years of Iranian-backed militia in Yemen targeting Saudi Arabia with missile and drone attacks — as well as older trade, investment and cultural accords.
Whether the shift leads to a deep or lasting détente between governments that have long been in conflict remains unclear, but there have been signs that both nations wanted to find a way to step back from confrontation. Saudi and Iranian officials had engaged in several rounds of talks over the past two years, including in Iraq and Oman, but without significant steps forward. [Continue reading…]