Recent reports of direct talks between regional rivals, Iran and Saudi Arabia, have been welcomed by the US, according to an official in the Biden administration yesterday.
“Our regional partners, first of all, like the UAE, are absolutely critical to us as partners in economics, in regional security, in mutual cooperation,” Jennifer Gavito, deputy assistant secretary for Iran and Iraq at the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, told CNBC.
“And so we welcome their contributions to regional stability. With regard to the announcement of direct talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran, we welcome that. We welcome any direct talks that lead to greater peace and stability in the region,” she added.
On Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, confirmed that a first round of direct talks took place with Iran’s new government last month, following an earlier development this year, which saw tensions between the two States begin to ease during three rounds of discussions held in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
“These discussions are still in the exploratory phase. We hope they will provide a basis to address unresolved issues between the two sides and we will strive and work to realise that,” said Prince Faisal in Riyadh, during a joint press conference with EU foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell.
Meanwhile, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Saeed Khatibzadeh, told a press conference in Tehran yesterday that the talks with the Saudis followed the Baghdad talks “with the best conditions” and that “No pre-conditions have been set by either side for the talks.”
Khatibzadeh, however, dismissed reports that a Saudi delegation had visited Tehran to discuss the re-opening of the Saudi embassy in the country, which had closed in 2016 following a mob storming and attacking the diplomatic mission in protest over the execution of prominent Saudi Shia cleric, Nimr Al-Nimr, leading to the severing of diplomatic ties between the two countries, which had already deteriorated due to taking opposing sides in several regional conflicts.