Middle East

Iranian minister describes Saudi talks as positive, constructive

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a news conference with Iraqi Kurdish regional President Masoud Barzani in Arbil, north of Baghdad, August 26, 2014. REUTERS/Azad Lashkari

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia: Iran’s deputy foreign minister said he held “positive and constructive” talks with Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Tuesday where Islamist militancy in Iraq – that both see as a threat – was one of the topics discussed.

Hossein Amir Abdollahian was in Jeddah for the first high-level bilateral talks between the two countries since Hassan Rouhani was elected president of Iran a year ago, pledging to thaw Tehran’s frosty relations with its Arab neighbors.

“Both sides emphasized the need to open a new page of political relations between the two countries,” Abdollahian told Reuters after meeting Prince Saud al-Faisal.

The two men discussed issues of regional security such as ISIS in Iraq and Israeli attacks on Gaza, Abdollahian said: “The meeting took place in a very positive and constructive atmosphere.”

The meeting was “fruitful,” Iran’s representative at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation Riza Hamid Dahqani told AFP.

The Iranian diplomat did not elaborate on how Saudi Arabia and Iran could cooperate to stop the advance of the jihadists in Iraq.

Official Saudi media did not initially report on Abdollahian’s arrival, a sign of the sensitivity of relations between two of the Middle East’s big powers which are separated by the Gulf and a religious divide,TURN TO PAGE 10FROM PAGE 1with Sunni Saudi Arabia often at odds with Shiite Iran. But state news agency SPA later did report the talks, saying the men “reviewed bilateral relations between the two countries and discussed a number of regional and international issues of common interest.”Iran’s financial daily Donya-e Eghtessad wrote: “It [the visit] is a step toward improving relations between Tehran and Riyadh.”

The authorities in Saudi Arabia had invited Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, but he declined, citing the ongoing nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 powers.

Donya-e Eghtessad also quoted Abdollahian as saying a Zarif trip to Riyadh should “be prepared and protocol must be respected.”

Rouhani has stated his wish to improve relations with Iran’s neighbors, especially Saudi Arabia.

In June, Rouhani warned that Muslim states which funnel petrodollars to jihadist Sunni fighters wreaking havoc in Iraq will become their next target.

“I advise Muslim countries that support the terrorists with their petrodollars to stop,” Rouhani said, referring to Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which Tehran accuses of financing the jihadists.

“Tomorrow you will be targeted ... by these savage terrorists. Wash your hands of killing and the killing of Muslims,” he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 27, 2014, on page 1.




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