On the afternoon of July 7, Reuters quoted Raed Karimli, a senior official in charge of policy planning at the Saudi Foreign Ministry, as saying that the ongoing dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran was “aimed at easing tensions in the region”, but that the Saudi side would like to see “good faith”, so it is too early to assess the impact of the dialogue. This is the first time that Saudi officials have confirmed direct contact between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Earlier, the Financial Times reported that senior Saudi and Iranian officials held a direct dialogue in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on April 9 this year, the two sides talked about Yemen’s Houthi forces and other issues, trying to repair bilateral relations through dialogue, but Saudi media quoted the Saudi Foreign Ministry as saying this denied this.
Iraqi President Ali Abdullah Saleh said in a video conference this week that Saudi and Iranian officials had recently held “more than one” meeting in Iraq under the auspices of the Iraqi side.
Relations between the two sides were strained in January 2016 when the Saudis announced they were severing diplomatic ties with Iran over the attack on the Saudi embassy and consulate in Iran, but the Saudis have recently softened their stance.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in a television interview with local media in late April that his country was willing to build good relations with Iran if it abandoned its “negative behavior”, but stressed that Iran’s “development of its nuclear program and support for militias in the region” poses a serious threat to Saudi national security and that Saudi Arabia is in close communication with the international community to resolve the issue.