The gates of the Iranian embassy in Riyadh were opened on April 12, 2023. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: Days after a Saudi delegation visited Tehran, an Iranian team arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to pave the way for reopening diplomatic missions as the nations are set to normalise relations after a seven-year hiatus.

The mutual visits follow a historic meeting in China on April 6 between the foreign ministers of the two countries who vowed to bring stability to the region.

“In accordance with the implementation of the agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia on the resumption of diplomatic activities... the Iranian technical delegation arrived in Riyadh at midday Wednesday and was welcomed by Saudi officials,” said Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani.

“The Iranian delegation will take the necessary steps to reopen the embassy in Riyadh and the consulate general in Jeddah as well as the activities of Iran’s permanent representative in the [Jeddah-based] Organisation of Islamic Cooperation,” he said in a statement.

Soon after the Saudi delegation visited Tehran last Saturday, Kanani said: “The initial steps between Iran and Saudi Arabia to appoint ambassadors have been completed.”

“The recent agreements between Iran and Saudi Arabia would have positive effect on boosting cooperation in order to improve peace and stability and on strengthening economic and trade relations between the two countries and in the region,” he said at that time.

In Riyadh, a Reuter’s witness said that Iran’s embassy reopened its gates on Wednesday for the first time in seven years.

The heavy gates of the Iranian embassy’s compound were open with a team inspecting its premises, a Reuters reporter said. A white truck was seen arriving at the gate.

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The mission had been closed since Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran in 2016, after its embassy in Tehran was stormed during a dispute between the two countries over Riyadh’s execution of a Shiite cleric. The kingdom subsequently asked Iranian diplomats to leave within 48 hours while it evacuated its embassy staff from Tehran.

According to Tehran, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi has been invited to Saudi Arabia. It would be the first trip by an Iranian president to Saudi Arabia since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2012 travelled to Mecca where he attended a regional meeting.

The flurry of diplomatic activity follows last month’s landmark, Chinese-brokered announcement that Iran and Saudi Arabia, who have backed opposing sides in conflicts around the Middle East, would work towards resuming ties.

Since the March 10 announcement, the two countries’ foreign ministers have met in China and a Saudi technical delegation met Iran’s chief of protocol in Tehran last week, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

The Saudi delegation, which arrived in Tehran on Saturday, is due to fly on to Iran’s second city Mashhad on Thursday, Kanani said on Wednesday.