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Iran appoints ambassador to Saudi Arabia following March diplomatic deal, reports say

Ambassador Alireza Enayati served as Iran's envoy to Kuwait from 2014 to 2019
An Iranian woman walks past an Iranian flag painted on a wall in a street in Tehran, on 10 April 2023 (AFP)

Nearly two months after Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to restore diplomatic relations, Iran has appointed an ambassador to Saudi Arabia, according to Mizan, Iran’s judiciary news agency.

Alireza Enayati was named as the new envoy to the kingdom. Prior to this new post, he served as Iran’s ambassador to Kuwait from 2014 to 2019 and then became the director general of Gulf affairs at the Iranian foreign ministry.  

In March, the two regional rivals ended seven years of severed relations after a China-brokered deal.

The tumultuous relationship between the two countries dates back to Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979. The introduction of a new, theocratic republic was seen as a threat by Riyadh, which, among other Sunni-ruled regional neighbours, accused Tehran of attempting to export its revolution and assert influence in the region.

Saudi Arabia had a rocky relationship with Iran under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, but this improved towards the latter part of his reign. Both were original members of the Opec oil cartel. 

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Saudi Arabia tacitly supported Iraq during its war against Iran in the 1980s, before a relative easing of tensions. The two severed relations from 1987 to 1990. Tensions were again reignited during the Arab Spring protests across the region in 2011. 

Iran and Saudi Arabia: Over four decades of tension
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In 2015, nearly 2,300 foreign pilgrims died in a stampede during the Hajj pilgrimage. Hundreds of those killed were Iranians. 

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused Saudi Arabia of “murder” and said it was “not qualified to manage the two holy mosques”. 

The two severed relations in 2016 after the Gulf kingdom executed Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, who had been involved in anti-government protests in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province. The subsequent attack on the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran as a result of his killing also contributed to the tensions. 

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