Saudi and Iranian officials plan further direct talks this month though no date has been set, Middle East officials and sources said, with the aim of easing tensions between the arch-rivals in a significant move for regional stability.
Sunni Muslim power Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite Iran are locked in a rivalry that has played out in proxy conflicts across the region, including in Yemen. Riyadh has also blamed Tehran for a 2019 attack on Saudi oil facilities, a charge Tehran denied.
Neither Riyadh nor Tehran, who cut diplomatic ties in 2016, have publicly confirmed or denied a first meeting in Iraq earlier this month though Iran’s envoy to Baghdad has welcomed Iraqi mediation to mend ties with Gulf states.
The talks come as the United States pursues diplomacy in Vienna to revive world powers’ 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, which Washington abandoned three years ago and Riyadh had opposed for not tackling Tehran’s ballistic missiles programme and wider regional behaviour.
“The April meeting was a very constructive meeting during which many issues, mainly the Yemen crisis, and Iran’s nuclear deal were discussed,” said an official in the Middle East.
The official and two regional sources said further talks could happen before the end of the month but the timing depended on progress in Vienna negotiations. A foreign diplomat in Riyadh said a second meeting is expected in late April or early May.
The talks, which proceeded after the Iraqi prime minister visited Riyadh, are being led by Saudi intelligence chief Khalid Humaidan and Saeed Iravani, the deputy secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, informed sources have said.