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On Friday, long-time regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia announced on their respective state media agencies that both countries had agreed to resume diplomatic relations and reopen embassies in each other's countries after successful China-led negotiations that took place in Beijing.
Iran's news agency IRNA reported Friday, "As a result of the talks, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to resume diplomatic relations and re-open embassies... within two months."
The announcement was also confirmed by the Saudi Press Agency, which also thanked Beijing for its assistance in brokering the agreement, saying, "In response to the noble initiative of His Excellency President Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China, of China's support for developing good neighborly relations between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran... The delegations from the two countries held talks during the period of 6-10 March 2023 in Beijing."
The statement emphasized Xi's role in hosting and sponsoring the negotiations, a process that Riyadh described as "proceeding from their shared desire to resolve the disagreements between them through dialogue and diplomacy, and in light of their brotherly ties."
Iran and Saudi Arabia also agreed to affirm "the respect for the sovereignty of states and the non-interference in internal affairs of states."
Other agreements included confirming that the foreign ministers of both countries would meet to implement and continue to improve relations between the two nations and that two cooperation accords - the "Security Cooperation agreement" from 2001 and the "General Agreement for Cooperation" from 1998 regarding the fields of sports, economy, trade, science, technology, culture, and sports and youth - would be upheld going forward.
The Saudi statement added, "The three countries expressed their keenness to exert all efforts towards enhancing regional and international peace and security."
The Saudi statement also acknowledged Riyadh's neighbors, Iraq and Oman, which hosted "rounds of dialogue that took place between both sides during the years of 2021-2022."
News of the agreement was supported by Oman, whose foreign minister tweeted hope that the agreement will "contribute to strengthening the pillars of security and stability in the region and consolidating positive and constructive cooperation that benefits all peoples of the region and the world."
The two countries have long viewed the other as dangerous security threats and have accused the other of destabilizing the region. They have also frequently taken opposite sides of regional conflicts including those in Lebanon, Yemen, and Syria.
In 2016 Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran after Iranian protestors stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran. The embassy was stormed in response to Saudi authorities executing 47 dissidents, which included a leading Shia cleric.
As news of the new agreement spreads, it is being greeted with renewed optimism. The commitment to cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Iran is "hugely positive news," according to Anna Jacobs, a senior Gulf analyst with the International Crisis Group. Jacobs added that there have been enough talks "to start some serious confidence-building measures and agree to this roadmap to restore full diplomatic relations. The news also suggests we are likely to [see] some positive movement on the Yemen ceasefire."
The development "shows that Saudi-Iran dialogue has succeeded after many years, and it's succeeded with support from regional powers like Iraq and Oman, but also global powers like China," Jacobs added.
Jacobs also noted that the agreement shows that China has begun to use its role in the region in new ways, particularly for negotiating, which Jacobs added is a huge win for China.
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