Saudi Arabia is seeing some progress in dialogue with its longtime rival Iran, but not enough, the state’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud, told CNBC on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the minister said, the two countries are interested in developing relations.
“In Saudi Arabia, and I think the same is true in other GCC states, we’ve paid a lot of attention – you know, Vision 2030 and other elements – built on hope, built on a vision of a prosperous future, built on development, built on it. Built on collaboration, “Prince Faisal told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“And this is a message that, as I say, we are trying to send to Saudi Arabia, but also to other GCC states that all have their own vision for the future, in the same vein, trying to send it to our region, including to our neighbors in Iran.”
“Our hands are outstretched. We are trying to send the message that entering a new era of cooperation in this region can benefit all of us.”
Saudi Arabia has long called Iran the biggest threat to stability in the greater Middle East, citing its nuclear program and support for militant proxy groups from Lebanon and Iraq to Yemen, and the two countries severed diplomatic ties in 2016. Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.
‘Significant sea change’
Prince Faisal said “a decision is needed for a more peaceful future.” “Iran needs a decision to sign that vision for a more prosperous, cooperative future.”
The minister said that in the case of dialogue with Iran, the GCC states have “made some progress, but not enough.”
“We continue to encourage our neighbors in Iran that could be a very important sea change in our region.”
Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi gestures during Friday prayers in Tehran on Friday, February 11, 2022, to mark the 43rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
Wana News Agency | Via Reuters
Saudi Arabia, along with its close ally the United Arab Emirates, has expressed criticism and skepticism about the Joe Biden administration’s pursuit of reviving Iran’s nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Action Plan.
If an agreement is reached that previously lifted economic sanctions in exchange for sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program, many regional analysts believe that Saudi Arabia and its allies will have little choice but to accept Iran’s re-entry into the international community.
“Now of course JCPOA, if it happens, it will probably be a good thing if it is a good deal,” Prince Faisal added. “But for us, the most important thing is that we solve the overall problems – nuclear non-proliferation, regional activity – and it can be done, but it requires a sincere desire to look to the future rather than the past.”
Earlier this year, Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi said He says his country is ready for further talks with Saudi Arabia. Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency quoted Raisi as saying in a meeting with the Iraqi prime minister that “Iran is ready to continue the talks until a conclusion is reached, provided that the Saudis are willing to continue negotiations in a spirit of mutual understanding and respect.” Minister in February.
Leaders of Iraq, a country where Saudi-Iranian hostilities often escalate violently, held several rounds of direct talks between Saudi and Iranian diplomats last year. Both countries have expressed cautious optimism about the talks.
Colonel Turki al-Malik, a spokesman for the Saudi Ministry of Defense, shows a drone screening during a news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on September 18, 2019, which the Saudi government says attacked an Aramco oil plant.
Hamad I Mohammed | Reuters
Gulf states are also increasingly skeptical of US security commitments to the region, and see reunification with Iran as a way to hedge against future threats from the country. In recent years, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been the targets of numerous drone and missile attacks from Yemen, which US officials say were in many cases aided or abetted by Iran. Tehran has denied the allegations.
Iran and the state are on the side of opposition to the war in Yemen, which became one of the worst man-made humanitarian catastrophes in the world since Saudi Arabia bombed Houthi rebels in Yemen in 2015.
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