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Sunday, December 5, 2021

‘Cordial’ talks with Iran yet to reach results: Saudi FM


The Saudi diplomat also warned of Iran’s nuclear acceleration.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said talks with Iran had been “cordial” but have yet to reach substantial results, The National News reported on Friday.

“These interactions have been [of] an exploratory nature, and have not reached a state where we can say we made substantial progress,” Prince Faisal told reporters in Washington following a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The Saudi diplomat’s comments came following a fourth round of talks between Riyadh and Tehran that took place on 21 September, just weeks after the inauguration of new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

Last week, an AFP report said Saudi Arabia and Iran reached an agreement “in principle” to reopen consulates in the two countries and an announcement over the restoration of ties is expected within weeks.

“They, in principle, have reached an agreement to reopen consulates… and I think an announcement of normalisation of ties may come in the next few weeks,” a foreign diplomat residing in Saudi Arabia told AFP.

Commenting on the latest round of talks, the foreign diplomat said the two regional powers were “on the verge” of agreeing “to ease tensions between them and the [diplomatic] proxy war in the region”.

“Saudi Arabia is interested in ending the conflict in Yemen…which has cost it billions of riyals,” the foreign diplomat said.

The kingdom cut off relations with the Islamic Republic in 2016 after Iranian protesters stormed Saudi diplomatic sites following Riyadh’s execution of popular Muslim scholar Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Strained relations further worsened following the election of former US President Donald Trump, who openly favoured Saudi Arabia’s leadership for its confrontation with Iran.

Since Qatar and Saudi Arabia restored diplomatic ties on 5 January, Doha has expressed its willingness to mediate between Riyadh and Tehran.

“Our aim is to reach a regional security understanding between the GCC and Iran. Iran is our neighbour, Iran is a player in our region and we cannot deny it,” said Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani during the Global Security Forum [GSF] last week.

Meanwhile, US Special Representative for Iran Robert Malley is travelling to Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates between 15-21 October to discuss stalled talks aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal.

Top US envoy to Iran to visit Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE within days

The restoration of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA] following the US withdrawal in 2018, has been a priority among members of the P4+1, with parties involved in the accord seeking the resumption of Vienna talks.

Iran warns Israel against attacks

Iran’s nuclear activity has been raising concerns in the US and Israel, with the two countries warning of “other options” if Tehran does not curb its nuclear programme.

“If the Iranians don’t believe the world is serious about stopping them, they will race to the bomb. Israel reserves the right to act at any given moment in any given way,” warned Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid in a joint press conference with his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed and Secretary Blinken in DC.

On Thursday, Iran warned Israel against attacks on its nuclear facilities in a letter sent to the UN Security Council chief.

“We warn the Zionist regime against any miscalculation or military adventure targeting Iran and its nuclear programme,” Iran’s ambassador to the UN Majid Takht Ravanchi wrote in the letter published by the Tasnim news agency.

Ravanchi also said Israel’s “provocative and adventurous threats” prove that it was responsible for attacks against Iran’s “peaceful nuclear programme in the past”.

Commenting on Iran’s nuclear activity, Prince Faisal called for a “quick resumption” of indirect talks between the US and Iran.

Qatar FM rules out normalisation with Israel as long as occupation continues

“You will have to put on the table enough tools that encourage Iran to come to the table. I wish that we wouldn’t have to talk about pressure,” said the Saudi diplomat.

“I wish that the government of Iran would see that it’s in the real interest of the region and its own interest and in the interest of the people of Iran that it’s focused on discovering prosperity… rather than having this excessive focus on trying to expand its influence in the region,” added Prince Faisal.

‘Brussels’ talks

Meanwhile European Union envoy Enrique Mora, who is in charge of coordinating nuclear talks, visited Iran on Thursday and met with Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri.
That comes as Tehran and the EU both agree on holding meetings in Brussels in efforts to resume nuclear talks with world powers in the next few weeks.

“At the end of this meeting, the two parties agreed to continue dialogue on questions of mutual interest in the coming days in Brussels,” Iran’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Tehran’s foreign ministry also stated that the EU is “ready to collaborate with Iran and the other parties”.

However, senior EU official told reporters that Iran was not ready to return to talks with world powers yet, though the Brussels meeting would allow both sides the opportunity to review June’s meetings.

“They insisted that they don’t want talks for talks, they want talking with practical results and with a final agreement on how to bring JCPOA back to life,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.

The official also said that Vienna talks would resume “soon”.

“I think we are just clarifying even more the situation for a final destination, which is going to be resuming in Vienna. I expect that soon,” he said.

However, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters in Washington that the Brussels meeting is unnecessary as the new Tehran government has had enough time to prepare for negotiations in Vienna.

The last round of talks in Vienna took place on 20 June, with reports suggesting diplomats would return to the negotiating table following President Raisi’s inauguration.
Since then, there have been several positive statements made by Raisi regarding the return to nuclear talks, however no moves have yet been taken.

Iran and the US have also been exchanging blame over the willingness to return to negotiations, with the former demanding that Washington lifts its sanctions on Tehran in order to resume discussions.

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