Iranian and Saudi state media announced a new agreement that Tehran and Riyadh normalize relations under an agreement brokered by China. The deal between the Middle East rivals comes after American interference in talks.
"After several days of intensive negotiations between [Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali] Shamkhani and Saudi Arabia’s national security adviser Musaid Al Aiban in Beijing, an agreement was reached on Friday aimed at resuming relations between the two countries," Iranian state media, IRNA, wrote.
Saudi state media affirmed the IRNA report with a press release. Beijing, Tehran and Riyadh "announce that an agreement has been reached between [Saudi] and the [Iran], that includes an agreement to resume diplomatic relations between them and re-open their embassies and missions within a period not exceeding two months." It continued, "they also agreed that the ministers of foreign affairs of both countries shall meet to implement this, arrange for the return of their ambassadors, and discuss means of enhancing bilateral relations."
The deal also includes a commitment by Iran, Saudi Arabia and China to "make every effort to strengthen regional and international peace and security."
The agreement calls for Tehran and Riyadh to respect other nations’ sovereignty. Additionally, Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to implement accords that were signed in 1998 and 2001. The talks between Tehran and Riyadh occurred in Beijing this week and the deal was inked during a ceremony on Friday.
China’s most senior foreign policy official, Wang Yi, celebrated the signing as a "victory." "This is a victory for the dialogue, a victory for peace, and is major positive news for the world which is currently so turbulent and restive, and it sends a clear signal," he said.
Tehran and Riyadh cut ties in 2016 after Saudi Arabia carried out the execution of a prominent Shia cleric. This resulted in protesters storming the Saudi embassy in Iran, provoking the end of ties between the two nations.
Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia have been inflamed by other conflicts in the Middle East. In Syria and Iraq, Saudi Arabia backed extremist forces and Iran backed the armies of Damascus and Baghdad. In Yemen, Riyadh has fought a war against the Houthis for nearly a decade. Saudi Arabia claims the Houthis are a proxy force of Iran. However, Riyadh, and its supporters in Washington, have failed to present credible evidence that Tehran provides any significant support to the Houthis.
In late 2019, Saudi Arabia sought to improve relations with Iran. Baghdad attempted to foster diplomacy between its two neighbors. Iranian General Qussam Soleimani arrived at the Baghdad Airport on January 3, 2020 with a diplomatic message for Saudi Arabia when he was killed by an American drone strike ordered by President Donald Trump. Soleimani’s death ended negotiations until 2021.
Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute, said the deal was "good news." The agreement is "good news for the Middle East, since Saudi-Iranian tensions have been a driver of instability in the region," Parsi told the New York Times.
Foreign policy analysts from more hawkish think tanks had a different reaction. Mark Dubowitz, the chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, called the deal "a lose, lose, lose for American interests." Mohammed Khalid Alyahya, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and fellow at the Belfer Center, told the NYT, "that is a reflection of China’s growing strategic clout in the region – the fact that it has a lot of leverage over the Iranians, the fact it has very deep and important economic relations with the Saudis."