Baghdad is hoping to revive talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia following years of deadly confrontation in Yemen. Diplomatic ties between Tehran and Riyadh have been non-existent for years.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran on Saturday, a day after visiting Saudi Arabia, Iranian state TV reported.
“We have agreed to work together to bring stability and calm to the region,” Kadhimi said in a joint televised news conference with Raisi.
Al-Kadhimi’s trip aims at reviving talks between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, although the two leaders remained non-committal on the issue.
“Dialogue with regional officials can resolve the regional issues,” Raisi said, without elaborating.
Iraq, like Iran, is a majority Shiite country, but also maintains relations with Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia. Keeping balanced relations with its two larger neighbors has been a key policy for al-Kadhimi’s administration since he came to power.
Shift amid West-Russia standoff
Al-Kadhimi visit comes a day after his meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Saudi city of Jiddah.
It also comes as Western leaders seem to be trying to improve ties with oil and gas-rich countries amid the faceoff with Russia. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell traveled to Tehran on Friday and announced the long-stalled talks on Iran’s nuclear program are set to continue in the coming days.
In turn, US President Joe Biden is set to travel to Riyadh next week, despite pledging to sideline the Saudi royal family following the murder of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have long been regional rivals. Diplomatic ties were cut in early 2016 after Iranian protesters stormed two Saudi diplomatic missions in the country in response to the execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr by Saudi authorities.
The two powers have also indirectly confronted each other in Yemen, in what is generally seen as a proxy war. Saudi Arabia has backed the ousted Yemeni government while Iran supports the Houthi rebels.
However, a recent truce in Yemen has sought to bring an end to the conflict that has triggered one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.
Attempts to heal the yearslong tensions between Tehran and Riyadh were made in lowkey talks in Baghdad last year, but these were suspended following the execution of some 40 Shiite citizens.
ab/dj (AP, Reuters)