Senior Saudi and Iranian officials held direct talks in Baghdad in April to renew their two countries’ relations, five years after severing diplomatic ties, the Financial Times reported on Sunday (Saudi and Iranian officials hold talks to patch up relations), citing three officials briefed on the discussions.
According to the FT, the Saudis are eager to end their involvement in Yemen against the Iranian proxy militia, the Houthi, who have been launching missiles and explosive-carrying drones at Saudi oil fields.
According to the FT report, the first round of talks took place on April 9, with Iraqi prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi serving as the facilitator. Another round of talks is scheduled for next week. According to Saudi sources, the reason for the Saudi change of heart, from aligning with the United Arab Emirates against the Houthi rebels is the devastating damages suffered by the Kingdom.
Relations between the two countries hit a low with the 2016 mob attack on the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran on January 2, 2016, in protest against the execution of a prominent Saudi Arabian Shi’a cleric. The protesters stormed and ransacked the embassy in Tehran and the Saudi consulate in Mashhad. The embassy building was set on fire with Molotov cocktails and petrol bombs.
Then, in 2018, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman supported President Donald Trump’s maximum pressure campaign against Tehran, which included pulling the US from the Iran nuclear deal and imposing crippling sanctions on Iran.
According to the FT, the new talks follow the election of President Biden, who promised to return to the 2015 nuclear deal and lift some of the sanctions should Iran start complying with the accord. The Saudis have accepted that this administration is not likely to support their military efforts in Yemen—since the US has stated as much after the Biden inauguration.