Resumption of Saudi-Iran relations, a praiseworthy step

According to media reports, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Islamic Republic of Iran on March 10, 2023 agreed to reestablish diplomatic relations and reopen their embassies within two months following years of tensions between the two countries.

“In response to the noble initiative of His Excellency President Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, of China’s support for developing good neighborly relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran”, a statement carried by Saudi state news agency SPA said.

“The three countries announce that an agreement has been reached between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“That includes an agreement to resume diplomatic relations between them and re-open their embassies and missions within a period not exceeding two months, and the agreement includes their affirmation of the respect for the sovereignty of states and the non-interference in internal affairs of states”, the statement said.

The agreement came following talks that took place from Monday, March 6 to Friday, March 10 in Beijing, SPA reported.

The two are committed to a meeting between ministers of foreign affairs of both countries to implement the agreement, arrange for the return of their ambassadors and discuss means of enhancing bilateral relations.

Riyadh and Tehran also agreed to activate the security cooperation agreement signed in 2001 and the trade, economy and investment agreement signed in 1998, according to the agreement text.

The agreement was signed by Iran’s top security official, Ali Shamkhani, and Saudi Arabia’s national security adviser Musaed bin Mohammed Al-Aiban.

“The Kingdom’s leadership welcomes the initiative of His Excellency President Xi Jinping, based on the Kingdom’s consistent and continuous approach since its establishment in adhering to the principles of good neighborliness, taking everything that would enhance security and stability in the region and the world, and adopting the principle of dialogue and diplomacy to resolve differences”, Al-Aiban said.

“While we value what we have reached, we hope that we will continue to continue the constructive dialogue, in accordance with the pillars and foundations included in the agreement, expressing our appreciation for the People’s Republic of China’s continued positive role in this regard,” he added.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said on Twitter: “The resumption of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran stems from the Kingdom’s vision based on preferring political solutions and dialogue, and its keenness to perpetuate this in the region”.

He continued: “The countries of the region have one destiny and common denominators that make it necessary for us to join together to build a model of prosperity and stability for our peoples to enjoy”.

Director of China’s Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission, Wang Yi, said the talks were a victory for dialogue and peace.

“This is a victory for dialogue, a victory for peace, offering major good news at a time of much turbulence in the world”, the Chinese foreign ministry cited Wang as saying at the close of the dialogue.

“As a good-faith and reliable mediator, China has faithfully fulfilled its duties as the host”, Wang said.

China would continue to play a constructive role in handling issues in the world and demonstrate its responsibility as a major nation, he added.

According to analysts, this latest development could be a true game-changer, heralding an era of regional peace and prosperity not seen in decades.

Commenting on it, Faisal J Abbas wrote in the Arab News:

… Of course, these are early days; there needs to be a trust-building period, and actions on the ground to cement the agreement. Some may be skeptical of Saudi intentions, or indeed call this a U-turn; they are clearly not up to date with the Kingdom’s declared policy. Friday’s agreement is in line with what Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told The Atlantic magazine a year ago — that we see Iran as a neighbor. It was in both parties’ interests to resolve matters, the crown prince said, but the Kingdom’s security concerns must be addressed first.

I genuinely hope this is an opportunity for the Iranian regime to focus on building its economy and looking after its people, just as our leadership does with us here in the Kingdom. If both countries are thriving and we achieve peace and prosperity, that would be good not just for Saudi Arabia but for the whole region, and indeed the world.

Saudi officials will continue to be on high alert, absolutely clear-eyed that what is agreed with Iranian foreign policy officials may not be in alignment with the Revolutionary Guards. In the Kingdom we know that throughout this conflict we have been always reasonable and offered an olive branch.

Previous attempts have failed; let us hope for everyone’s sake that this one succeeds.

Inevitably, armchair experts in the US and Europe will miss the bigger picture, focus on China’s role, and question why the US was excluded. I don’t believe that exclusion was indicative of a lack of trust; America remains the most important and steadfast of Saudi strategic allies. Rather it is in the nature of these negotiations that to succeed they must be shrouded in secrecy and conducted through mediators accepted by both parties as fair, without bias or conflict of interest. China fits that bill perfectly; it has good relations with both countries, and unlike the US and most of Europe has no history of regional aggression or colonialism. Indeed, as Saudi Arabia’s leading oil customer (1.75 million barrels a day), China has an interest in ensuring the safe flow of energy by seeing this agreement through.

While Saudi-Iranian tensions are far from over, this agreement could be the beginning of the end of a decades-long and bloody chapter.

In my opinion, this resumption of relations between Tehran and Riyadh was possible because of China’s important role, as Beijing has no history of regional aggression or colonialism. On the other hand, if the United States was in the role of mediators, it would end up with no result, as for Washington, keeping the region under volatility and enmity within the countries is of immense benefit as America could play ‘Iran card’ or ‘Potential threats posed by Iran’ as a card to blackmail Saudi Arabia and extract businesses worth hundreds of billions of dollars. In fact, Washington is never in favor of peace in that part of the world, as peaceful coexistence amongst the Arab nations and Iran would drastically decrease America’s and Western country’s opportunity of selling weapons and military hardware, while it also can be beneficial to Washington in particular in getting petroleum products particularly from Saudi Arabia as a special price.

As China has played an extremely praiseworthy role in beginning a new era of cooperation between Riyadh and Tehran by making and end to decades-old enmity, Beijing now should play similar role in helping Iraq, in particular in getting rescued from the clutches of America and Western powers. Iraq deserves to once again emerge into a land of peace and prosperity.

Let there be end of hostility in the region. Instead of war, hostility and enmity, now let every nation in that region, including Iran focus on mutual cooperation and further progress and prosperity.

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