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Friday, December 3, 2021

Saudi FM discusses Iran’s nuclear activity with US envoy

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Talks between Tehran and Riyadh have yet to yield results.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud and US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley met up in Riyadh on Wednesday to discuss stalled nuclear talks in Vienna.

According to the Saudi Press Agency [SPA], the officials also touched on intensifying joint efforts to confront Iran’s violations of international conventions and treaties.

Since 2015, Riyadh has led a military intervention to push back Houthi rebels and reinstate the government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi after the rebel group overran all government institutions in Sanaa in 2014.

Six years on, at least 233,000 Yemenis have been killed, among them 131,000 of whom died as a result of malnutrition, lack of healthcare and medicine.

Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s internationally-recognised government have long accused Iran of backing the Houthis with weaponry and drones, though Tehran says it only provides the rebel group with political support.

UK, Arab League ‘share concerns’ over Iran’s nuclear programme

The kingdom also 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.

The visit comes amid reports of an acceleration in dialogue between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran. Officials revealed that the latest and the most recent round of talks took place on 21 September, though this has yet to yield results.
However, in a clear sign of rapprochement, authorities this week confirmed the resumption of Iranian exports to Riyadh.

Iran Customs Administration’s Spokesman Roohollah Latifi said the restoration of exports “represents a positive development” amid talks between Riyadh and Tehran, noting that the two latest shipments to the kingdom were worth around $39,000.

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.

In a press briefing on Monday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said that while he cannot confirm presence of a Saudi diplomatic delegation in Tehran, he described the recent talks as “respectful”.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia seemed to downplay the progress, saying although talks were “cordial”, no substantial results were reached.

Malley was also in Qatar on Tuesday on the second leg of his Gulf tour, following a visit to the United Arab Emirates.

While no further information was revealed, his visit to Doha comes as Qatar continues to call on the international community to resume stalled nuclear talks in Vienna to accelerate the revival of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA].

Since Qatar and Saudi Arabia restored diplomatic ties after a four-year bitter dispute between GCC member state, Doha has echoed its willingness to mediate between Riyadh and Tehran to ease regional tensions.

“We want a quiet region. We hold consultations with Iran and keep our channels open with Tehran. We do not want to see a nuclear race in the region,” said Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in an interview with the US Council on Foreign Relations [CFR]  in September.


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