Middle Eastern powers Iran and Saudi Arabia participated in the fifth round of talks in Baghdad on 22 April. The talks, aimed at “normalizing” bilateral relations, were confirmed by Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh. He also described them as “positive.”
Iran and Saudi Arabia started a direct dialogue process to de-escalate tensions in 2021. Both sides have been involved in proxy conflicts across the Middle East region.
In March this year, Iran suspended the talks with Riyadh. Teheran however, did not give a reason for the suspension of talks. Talks were suspended after Saudi Arabia executed 81 men, 41 of them were Shi’ite Muslims. Iran had condemned this mass execution.
Khatibzadeh in a televised conference said, “The fifth round of talks between Saudi Arabia and Tehran were held in Iraq and the talks were progressive and positive.”
On 24 April, Foreign Minister of Iraq Fouad Hussein announced that Baghdad would host a new round of talks.
Khatibzadeh in his briefing said “initial talks were underway between Tehran and Riyadh on sending 40,000 Iranian pilgrims to the haj in Mecca” this year.
Saudi Arabia snapped ties with Iran in 2016 after protesters in Iran stormed the Saudi embassy in Teheran following the execution of a Shi’ite cleric in Saudi Arabia.
Talks between the two neighbours have not included any major issues and the focus was more on small issues like a pilgrimage to holy sites. They have been held by intelligence-level officials. If future talks are held between foreign ministry-level officials in the coming days, it might hint at significant progress between the two powers and a serious desire to resolve differences and conflicts, in which they are directly-indirectly involved in.
In recent years, Gulf countries have reached out to rivals to normalize ties as their economies have also suffered years of animosity.
Oil facilities in both Saudi Arabia and UAE have come under attacks in recent years, allegedly by Iran-backed actors. Houthi rebels in Yemen, which is backed by Teheran are said to have staged these attacks.
All the Middle Eastern states had muted responses to the crisis in Ukraine, which is an indication that the countries are undergoing rethinking and realigning their policy.
Top oil-producing countries Saudi Arabia, and the UAE have not changed their stance to increase oil production on the US calls to increase oil production to bring down the oil price.
At the same time, both Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have reached out to countries like Iran, Qatar, and more to mend ties in the region. Saudi Arabia has also de-escalated the war in Yemen and reached out to Lebanon to improve ties.