Communist Party of China
Iran and Saudi Arabia have agreed to restore diplomatic ties, seven years after severing them, following talks in China.

Saudi Arabia, Iran bury the hatchet, courtesy China

Iran and Saudi Arabia, bitter Middle East regional rivals, have finally agreed to restore diplomatic ties, seven years after severing them in a blazing row.

The dramatic announcement came after four days of talks between officials from both sides in China, which is stepping up its diplomatic role in a region long dominated by the US and Russia.

Saudi Arabia snapped diplomatic ties in January 2016 after demonstrators stormed its embassy in Tehran in the wake of Riyadh’s execution of a prominent Shia cleric.

Tensions between the Sunni and Shia-led neighbours have since often been high, with both vying for regional dominance.

Iran-Saudi rivalry

They support rival sides across the Middle East including in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq — and Yemen.

Iran has supported Shia Houthi rebels who forced out the Saudi-backed government in 2014. Saudi Arabia has led a punishing air campaign against the Houthis.

Saudi Arabia has also accused Iran of helping the Houthis attack it. Iran denies the charge.

Previous attempts at reconciliation have been unsuccessful. But on Friday, the two countries said they would reopen embassies within two months.

They also said that they will re-establish trade and security relations.

US reaction

A stung United States, which considers Iran a bitter foe and had traditionally counted Saudi Arabia as a staunch ally, cautiously welcomed the announcement.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the administration supported “any effort to de-escalate tensions in the region”.

But he quickly added: “It really does remain to be seen if Iran is going to meet their obligations.”

UN chief Antonio Guterres thanked China for brokering the deal.

Israel, which has called for maximum pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme, has not commented.

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