Saudi and Iranian officials held talks in Baghdad to repair relations – FT

File – Flags of Saudi Arabia and Iran

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Senior officials from Saudi Arabia and Iran have met in a bid to repair relations between the two regional rivals, Financial Times reported on Sunday.

Financial Times cited three officials briefed on the discussions as saying that the officials had been holding direct talks in Baghdad on April 9.

One of the officials told Financial Times that the first round of talks included discussions about the Houthi attacks and that they were positive.

The Saudi delegation was led by intelligence chief Khalid bin Ali al-Humaidan, the official said, noting that another round of talks had been scheduled for next week.

Financial Times reported that Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi facilitated the process, who held talks with Prince Mohammed in Riyadh last month.

“It’s moving faster because the US talks [related to the nuclear deal] are moving faster and [because of] the Houthi attacks,” the FT quoted the official as saying.

A senior Saudi official told the FT that there had not been any talks with Iran.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran hit a low in January 2016 after the kingdom’s embassy in Tehran was ransacked.

Tension escalated further in 2018, after former U.S. President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal and reimposed crippling sanctions on Iran.

A senior Iraqi official also told the FT that Baghdad had also facilitated “communication channels” between Iran and Egypt, and Iran and Jordan.

“The Prime Minister is very keen to personally play a role in turning Iraq into a bridge between these antagonistic powers in the region,” the official told the FT.

“It’s in Iraq’s interest that it can play this role. The more confrontation you have in the region, the more they play out here . . . and these talks have been taking place.”

The report comes as the United States and Iran try to revive a 2015 nuclear accord to which Riyadh had been opposed and as the U.S. presses for an end to the Yemen conflict, seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Saudi Arabia has called for a nuclear deal with stronger parameters and said Gulf Arab states should join any negotiations on the deal to ensure that this time it addresses Iran’s missile programme and its support for regional proxies.

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