Dubai: In the first direct talks between the two countries in some years, Iranian deputy foreign minister Hussain Amir Abdollahian is flying to Riyadh on Tuesday for talks on regional issues, including the war against the terrorist organisation of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Iraq and Syria, political experts said.
“I think it is avery important visit,” said Khalid Al Maeena, a veteran Saudi commentator and editor-at-large of Saudi Gazette.
“Direct contact between Saudi Arabia and Iran is very much needed,” he added to Gulf News. “Good relations between the two important countries will filter down and help (boost) security and stability” in the region, he said.
Abdollahian’s visit to Riyadh is the first visit by a senior Iranian official since the election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s president. Rouhani is considered a moderate president and among the voices advocating better relations with Saudi Arabia.
The Iranian official’s schedule includes meeting Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Prince Saud Al Faisal on issues concerning the two countries, according to Tehran’s official news agency IRNA.
Political experts believe the talks will focus on the growing role and atrocities of Isil in both Iraq and Syria.
“Yes, this is very important and comes high on the agenda and it should be, as Isil doesn’t constitute a danger to the countries of the region only, but the whole world. They are attracting youth not only from our region but also Europe. “They constitute a danger to the world,” Al Maeena said, describing the situation in Iraq and Syria and the killing there as “appalling”.
“These people with cannibals’ behaviour are causing a lot of damage to Muslims and Islam, and I believe it is very important to have cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Iran” on facing the danger.
“There is a great Iranian concern from Isil,” said Mahjoub Al Zweiri, a political scientist at Qatar University and expert on Iran.
“This concern comes from the fact that Iran knows the group through the Iranian presence in Syria and because many members of the group passed through Iran coming back from Afghanistan,” he added to Gulf News.
Iran, Zweiri added, has reached the conclusion that it needs to keep the door open with a country like Saudi Arabia. “There was a semi-agreement between the two countries over the appointment of the Iraqi Prime Minister, and now Iran is trying to reach an agreement with Saudi Arabia on some issues, including the war against Isil in Iraq and Syria,” he said.
Both Riyadh and Tehran have welcomed the appointment of the Shiite Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi in Iraq earlier this month.
Also, earlier this month, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham was quoted as saying “Iran’s relations with the regional countries including Saudi Arabia are taking their normal course”.
“Naturally, as Iran’s new ambassador to Saudi Arabia takes office, there are some plans so that we may have a new assessment of diplomatic activities,” she was quoted as saying during her weekly press conference. She was referring to the arrival of Hussain Sadeghi as Iran’s new ambassador to Riyadh last week and presentation of his credentials to Prince Saud. Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran have been controversial in the past three years over the war in Syria and what Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab Gulf countries describe as Iranian interference in the region.
At present, Zweiri said there is a group of top politicians inside Iran who believe having “a relationship with Saudi Arabia under the regional circumstances is a must”.
Zweiri added, “I believe the two countries have a common interest to have an agreement on solving the issues in the region.”