Saudi Arabia and Iran have held a new round of talks aimed at restoring very strained relations, the official Jordanian news agency reported on December 13, as the Saudi envoy to the United Nations accused Tehran of playing games. “games” in its dialogue with Riyadh.
Shia-ruled Iran and Sunni-controlled Saudi Arabia are bitter rivals in the struggle for influence in the Middle East and support allies in proxy wars in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere.
The two Muslim-majority countries severed diplomatic ties in 2016 after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions following Riyadh’s execution of a Shiite cleric.
The Saudi kingdom called direct talks with Tehran earlier this year cordial but exploratory, while an Iranian official said in October that they had come a “good distance”.
The latest round of talks, held at expert level in Amman, ended on December 13 and focused on confidence-building measures, particularly regarding Iran’s nuclear program, according to Jordanian news agency Petra.
There was no immediate confirmation from Tehran or Riyadh.
But in a video interview published on December 13, Saudi Arabia’s envoy to the UN Abdullah al-Mouallimi told a Saudi newspaper that no major results had been achieved in the negotiation process.
“We would like to push these discussions to substantive issues that involve the behavior of the Iranian government in the region,” Mouallimi told Arab News.
“But as long as the Iranians continue to play with these talks, they are not going anywhere,” he said. “The Iranians are taking a long-term attitude to these talks. We are not interested in talks for the sake of talking.”
Meanwhile, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, welcomed the Israeli prime minister on December 13, with the issue of Iran to be on their agenda. talks.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrived in the United Arab Emirates the day before, marking the first time that an Israeli prime minister has paid an official visit to the Sunni-ruled Persian Gulf state.
The trip comes after Israeli-UAE relations formalized under the United States last year and amid intense diplomacy as world powers attempt to revive a 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that was hampered by a U.S. withdrawal and the reimposition of sanctions in 2018.
Israel and Abu Dhabi have long secretly cooperated on security matters, but they did not formalize their relationship until September 2020.
A statement from the state-run WAM news agency said Sheikh Mohammed had expressed hope for “stability in the Middle East” and that Bennet’s visit “would advance the cooperative relationship to more measures. positive for the benefit of the peoples of the two nations and of the region. “
The Israel Hayom newspaper, citing unidentified officials, said Bennett was to brief Sheikh Mohammed on intelligence regarding Iranian militias and drones in the region.