World Bulletin/ News Desk
Regional heavyweights Iran and Saudi Arabia will engage in a series of diplomatic exchanges next month, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said Thursday.
Speaking to the Iranian Student News Agency (ISNA), Zarif said a Saudi delegation was planning to visit Saudi diplomatic missions in the cities of Tehran and Mashhad, while Iranian diplomats were planning a reciprocal visit to Iran’s embassy in Saudi Arabia.
Noting that visa problems between the two countries had been satisfactorily resolved, he said: “We expect to soon complete the final procedures in advance of our planned embassy visits.”
“The reciprocal [diplomatic] visits will probably take place after the current Hajj season,” he added. The Iranian FM went on to assert that Tehran was “always ready” to engage in dialogue with Saudi Arabia with a view to resolving the region’s crises.
“If the Saudi authorities take steps to improve their relations with us, Iran will certainly respond in a positive manner,” he added. In January of last year, Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties with Iran after two Saudi diplomatic missions -- in Tehran and Mashhad -- were ransacked by Iranian protesters.
The attacks on the diplomatic missions were prompted by Riyadh’s decision to execute a prominent Shia cleric, Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, for alleged terrorism-related offenses. Iran has long been considered the chief regional rival of the oil-rich Gulf kingdom.
Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies frequently accuse Tehran of supporting Yemen’s Shia Houthi militia group, which overran much of that country -- including capital Sanaa -- in 2014. The six-year conflict in Syria, in which Iran and the Gulf States support opposing sides, has also contributed to the deterioration of Gulf-Iran relations.
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