On Monday, Iran said it is open to dialogue with Saudi Arabia after reports said Iranian and Saudi officials held direct talks in Baghdad, although Tehran did not confirm if the meeting happened.
“We have seen media reports about talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia, although the reports sometimes had contradictory quotes,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said at a press conference.
“What is important is that the Islamic Republic of Iran has always welcomed dialogue with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and considers it in the interest of the people of the two countries, as well as peace and stability in the region,” Khatibzadeh added.
Sources told Financial Times and Reuters that Saudi-Iranian talks took place in Baghdad on April 9th and that more are expected. The talks are reportedly being facilitated by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who, according to an Iraqi source, “is very keen to personally play a role in turning Iraq into a bridge between these antagonistic powers in the region.”
Iran and Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations in 2016 and are seen as bitter regional rivals. US intervention and support for Riyadh in the region does much to stoke this rivalry, and Iran has repeatedly signaled it is willing to come to the table with the Saudis if the US is not involved.
When Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani was killed by a US drone strike in Baghdad in January 2020, he was scheduled to meet with Iraq’s former prime minister, who was facilitating indirect talks between Tehran and Riyadh. Former Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi said of Soleimani: “I was supposed to meet him in the morning the day he was killed, he came to deliver a message from Iran in response to the message we had delivered from the Saudis to Iran.”