Iran and Saudi Arabia hold talks in Baghdad

Riyadh has officially denied the talks in its state media while Tehran has stayed mum


AFP April 19, 2021

BAGHDAD:

Middle Eastern rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran have been holding talks in Baghdad in recent weeks, an Iraqi government official and a Western diplomat told AFP.

The official-level meetings aim to restore relations severed five years ago between the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic republic of Iran.

The initiative comes at a time of shifting power dynamics, as US President Joe Biden is seeking to revive the tattered 2015 nuclear deal that was abandoned by Donald Trump.

Riyadh has officially denied the talks in its state media while Tehran has stayed mum, asserting only that it has "always welcomed" dialogue with Saudi Arabia.

The two countries cut ties in 2016 after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions following the kingdom's execution of a Shia cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

The Baghdad talks, facilitated by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi, remained secret until the Financial Times reported Sunday that a first meeting had been held on April 9.

An Iraqi government official confirmed the talks to AFP, while a Western diplomat said he had been "briefed in advance" about the effort to "broker a better relationship ... and decrease tensions".

The Saudi delegation is led by intelligence chief Khalid bin Ali al-Humaidan and the Iranian side by representatives of the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, said Adel Bakawan of the iReMMO institute for Mideast studies.

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