In 2016, one man’s execution spurred violent protests and a serious diplomatic rift between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran.

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Riyadh cut off all ties with Tehran after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions with Molotov cocktails following the execution of the Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr. But after seven years of belligerence, name-calling and proxy wars, relations have been suddenly and unexpectedly re-established thanks to Chinese-brokered talks held in Beijing.

“As a result of the talks, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to resume diplomatic relations and reopen embassies…within two months,” Iran’s state news agency Irna reported, citing a joint statement.

The development “has the world doing metaphorical double takes”, said The New York Times, considering it could well “transform the Middle East”. 

‘Diplomatic victory for China’

The rivalry between the largely Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia has “dominated Middle East politics in recent years”, The Guardian said, ultimately “spreading into Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen”.

As recently as five years ago, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that Iran’s supreme leader “makes Hitler look good”. Now the two countries are discussing “sharing one fate”.

The breakthrough will not only see Riyadh and Tehran reopening their embassies in one another’s countries but also reviving a 22-year-old security pact, which committed both countries to co-operation on terrorism, drug smuggling and money laundering.

The deal is also “a diplomatic victory for China”, said CNN, “in a Gulf region that has long been considered part of the US’ domain of influence”. “It’s a sign that the Saudi government, under Bin Salman, is willing to increase ties with US adversaries,” agreed Insider.

‘Guarded but hopeful’

Video of the signing ceremony that was broadcast by Iranian media showed officials surrounded by Saudi Arabian, Iranian and Chinese flags. According to Peter Baker, the chief White House correspondent for The New York Times, China’s involvement in the deal suddenly puts Americans “on the sidelines during a moment of significant change”.

The rapprochement was “greeted with optimism by Iraq and Oman – who had previously helped mediate the talks”, said Al Jazeera. And on hearing the news, both of the warring parties in Yemen “were guarded, but hopeful”, said AP.

Yet there remains a “high …read more

Source:: The Week – All news


An end to Iran and Saudi Arabia’s seven-year rift

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