Skip to main content

Saudi Arabia agrees to issue visas for Iran's diplomats amid signs of detente

Baghdad has been facilitating talks between the two rivals since April
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian speaking in Tehran on 23 December 2021 (AFP)

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said on Thursday that Saudi Arabia had agreed to grant three visas to Iranian diplomats, as he hinted that some progress had been made in talks aimed at repairing ties between the two countries.

The diplomats will serve as representatives to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, a body of 57 Islamic countries headquartered in the Saudi Arabian coastal city of Jeddah.

Saudi Arabia severed ties with Iran in 2016 after its embassy in Tehran was ransacked and set aflame in response to the kingdom's execution of a well-known Shia cleric.

Tensions between the two powers have flared across the region, with conflicts between proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and beyond.

The Gulf kingdom's influence in Lebanon has slowly eroded as Iran-backed Hezbollah has deepened its hold over the government, which is dealing with a collapse of the Mediterranean country's economy.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Welcome to Kordahi Street: Lebanese minister lauded by Yemenis weary of war
Read More »

The two powers are also locked in a bitter proxy conflict in Yemen where Iran-aligned Houthis have shot hundreds of missiles and drones into the kingdom, prompting Saudi Arabia to respond with massive air strikes which rights groups allege have targeted civilian infrastructure. 

Baghdad has been facilitating talks between the two countries since April in a bid to reduce tensions.

The talks come amid a flurry of diplomatic activity driven by concerns over the United States' regional priorities and stalled efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

Amir-Abdollahian told reporters on Thursday that discussions with Riyadh had gone well, and that the travel permits for the diplomats had been issued last week. He added that a new round of meetings was expected to begin soon, with arrangements being made for "next steps in the talks".

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.