Beirut: Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hussain Amir-Abdollahian arrived in Riyadh on Monday what is the first visit to Saudi Arabia by a senior Iranian government official since the June 2013 election of President Hassan Rouhani.

Amir-Abdollahian was expected to meet Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal to discuss the growing threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).

The rare visit signalled an unprecedented urgency to quell the growing threat of extremists who have made sweeping territorial gains in both Iraq and Syria and its leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi declaring the land to be a new “caliphate”.

Coming on the heels of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zafari’s surprise stop in Baghdad on Sunday, Amir-Abdollahian may be testing the ground to determine the level of cooperation from Riyadh on rapidly evolving conditions in Iraq and Syria.

Both Riyadh and Tehran welcomed the appointment of the new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi to replace Nouri Al Maliki, although sharp differences remained over the outcome of various uprisings throughout the region. Both countries were deeply concerned with the Isil-led violence in Iraq as well as in large sections of northern Syria, including the latest atrocities at the Tabqa Air Base near Raqqa where an estimated 500 Syrian soldiers lost their lives.

Tehran believed that Saudi was responsible for supporting Sunni extremists throughout the Levant whereas Riyadh perceived Iranian policies as inciting sectarian tensions.

Prince Saud Al Faisal repeatedly pointed to the activities of the Quds Force, led by General Qasim Sulaimani, whose units were heavily engaged in the Syrian and Iraqi battlefields. Still, given the recent bravura of Al Baghdadi, Iran sought Saudi Arabia’s assistance to quell the threat posed by this militant group.

As one of Rouhani’s goals is to improve relations with conservative Arab Gulf monarchies, the Amir-Abdollahian visit is probably aimed to set the groundwork for a Zarif visit soon, especially since Prince Saud extended an invitation to his Iranian counterpart some time ago. The two leaderships remained wary of each others’ intentions while each battled sectarian policies.