After striking a historic peace deal that was negotiated by China, Iran and Saudi Arabia have continued taking steps to normalize diplomatic relations after having been sworn enemies for decades. According to an Iranian official on Sunday, the King of Saudi Arabia has extended a formal invitation to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to visit Riyadh in an unprecedented move. The invitation was reportedly "welcomed" by Raisi, with the two leaders now working to set a date for the historic visit.
Mohammad Jamshidi, the Iranian president's Deputy Chief of Staff for Political Affairs, tweeted, "In a letter to President Raisi... the King of Saudi Arabia welcomed the deal between the two brotherly countries, [and] invited him Riyadh."
The upcoming meeting was also confirmed by the Iranian Foreign Ministry, with Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian saying that "An agreement was reached two months ago for Iranian and Bahraini technical delegations to visit the embassies of the two countries."
"We hope that some obstacles between Iran and Bahrain will be removed and we will take basic steps to reopen the embassies,' Amirabdollahian added.
The last time an Iranian head of state visited Riyadh was more than 20 years ago when Iranian President Mohammad Khatami visited the kingdom in February 1998. That was also the first trip to Saudi Arabia by an Iranian president since the 1979 Iranian Islamic revolution.
The Former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, called the Saudi-Iran diplomatic deal "a substantial change in the strategic situation in the Middle East."
As diplomatic relations between the two Middle Eastern countries continue to build, there is hope that the historic deal and the upcoming visits between the two leaders could eventually bring long-hoped-for stability to the region. The two nations have long been regional rivals, with the rivalry hitting new heights during the proxy war in Syria, which began in 2011. Historically, the two countries have been divided for centuries, with Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia interpreting Islam differently. The differences have also influenced another proxy war in Yemen in which Shia rebels are fighting against a Saudi-backed government.
While the two rivals have a long way to go in order to fully normalize relations, the recent China-brokered peace deal and now the meeting of the two leaders on Saudi soil stand to show that both nations are committed to renewing ties.
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