BEIJING: The successful talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Beijing are a victory for dialogue and peace, China’s top diplomat Wang Yi said on Friday.
Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed on Friday to re-establish relations after seven years of hostility which had threatened stability and security in the Gulf and helped fuel conflicts in the Middle East from Yemen to Syria.
“This is a victory for dialogue, a victory for peace, offering major good news at a time of much turbulence in the world,” the Chinese foreign ministry cited Wang as saying at the close of the dialogue.
Previously undisclosed talks between the two were held March 6-10 by top security officials from Saudi Arabia and Iran in the Chinese capital, according to a tripartite joint statement of the countries released by China’s foreign ministry.
In the statement, the three parties expressed their willingness to make “every effort” to strengthen international and regional peace and security.
The landmark deal is a diplomatic win for China in a region where geopolitics has been dominated by the United States. It also comes as China calls for dialogue over Russia’s war in Ukraine, amid accusations from the West that Beijing has not done enough on the issue.
“As a good-faith and reliable mediator, China has faithfully fulfilled its duties as the host,” Wang said.
China will continue to play a constructive role in handling hotspot issues in the world and demonstrate its responsibility as a major nation, he said.
“The world is not just limited to the Ukraine issue,” said Wang.
Friday’s announcement, which follows five days of previously unannounced talks in Beijing and several rounds of dialogue in Iraq and Oman, caps a broader realignment and efforts to ease tensions in the region.
Tehran will ‘actively prepare other regional initiatives’
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian welcomed the rapprochement and said Tehran will “actively prepare other regional initiatives”.
“The return to normal relations between Tehran and Riyadh offers great opportunities to the two countries, the region and the Muslim world,” he tweeted.
Iraq hailed the announcement by its neighbours, with the foreign ministry saying “a new page has been opened in diplomatic relations between the two countries”.
Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, had travelled to Beijing on Monday for “intensive negotiations with his Saudi counterpart in China in order to finally resolve the problems between Tehran and Riyadh”, Iran’s official Irna news agency said.
“Removing misunderstandings and the future-oriented views in relations between Tehran and Riyadh will definitely lead to improving regional stability and security, as well as increasing cooperation among Gulf nations and the world of Islam for managing current challenges,” Shamkhani was quoted as saying.
Sandwiched between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Iraq had hosted several rounds of talks since April 2021. Those encounters were held at a relatively low level, involving security and intelligence officials.
Amir-Abdollahian had said in July that the two countries were ready to move talks to a higher level, in the political and public spheres.
But no talks had been publicly announced since April last year.
Hezbollah: Reconciliation is ‘good development’
The head of Lebanon’s armed group Hezbollah said the resumption of ties between its backer Iran and Saudi Arabia was a “good development”.
In recent months, negotiations have been ongoing, including in Oman, a longtime interlocutor between Iran and the US. Some have hoped for an agreement ahead of Ramadan, which will begin later in March. Iran and Saudi Arabia have held off-and-on talks in recent years, but it wasn’t immediately clear if Yemen was the impetus for this new detente.
Previous rounds of talks between Saudi and Iranian officials had been brokered by Baghdad and held in Iraq, but stalled last year. Iraq’s new government is perceived as closely linked to Iran, although Iraq has attempted to maintain relations with both sides.
A Yemeni rebel spokesman, Mohamed Abdulsalam, appeared to welcome Friday’s deal in a statement that also slammed the US and Israel.