Iran’s Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs arrived in Jeddah, a Saudi Arabian port city on the Red Sea, on Thursday, in the first visit to the Kingdom by a senior Iranian official since the restoration of diplomatic relations, Anadolu News Agency reports.
Ehsan Khandouzi is leading a high-level economic delegation to Saudi Arabia, according to state media, as the two countries move to rejuvenate economic ties.
He was reportedly welcomed at King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah by officials of the Saudi government, Islamic Development Bank officers and Iranian consulate staff.
It is the first official visit by an Iranian Minister, who also serves as a government spokesman, to Saudi Arabia since the two countries agreed to resume diplomatic relations under a deal brokered by China in March.
Iran and Saudi Arabia severed ties in January 2016 after the Saudi embassy in Tehran was attacked by a mob following the execution of Saudi Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr Baqir Al-Nimr.
The rapprochement in March was followed by a high-profile meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries in Beijing last month, in which the two sides formally agreed to re-open diplomatic missions.
According to official sources, Khandouzi will hold a series of meetings with Saudi officials, including his counterpart, Mohammed Al-Jadaan, and speak at the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank.
The visit is expected to set into motion economic cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia after seven years of friction as the two sides move to re-open diplomatic missions and re-appoint ambassadors.
Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, was quoted as saying, by local media on Thursday, that the Saudi side had introduced its new Ambassador to Tehran and that the Iranian side would do the same soon.
He hastened to add that the work on re-opening embassies and consulates in the two countries will be finalised in the “coming days,” confirming what Ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanaani, said on Monday.
Observers say expanding economic ties is a high priority on the agendas of Tehran and Riyadh, as evidenced by the fact that Iran’s Economy Minister is the first member of Ebrahim Raisi’s cabinet to visit Saudi Arabia.
Days after the agreement was signed in Beijing, Al-Jadaan highlighted “many opportunities” for Saudi investment in Iran and said he saw no impediments to bilateral trade.
Last month, Reza Fatemi Amin, Iran’s Minister for Industry, Trade and Mining, was quoted as saying by the state news agency, IRNA, that the process of exporting goods to Saudi Arabia had been set in motion.
In separate remarks, Farzad Piltan, West Asia Director at Iran’s Trade Promotion Organisation, was quoted by the news agency as saying that the country was eyeing $1 billion in trade with Saudi Arabia, which he said could further expand to $2 billion with a focus on steel, saffron, carpets, cement, dried fruit, etc.