TEHRAN – Talks between regional rivals in the Middle East, Tehran and Riyadh, have led to “serious progress” on the issue of Gulf security, an official from Iran’s foreign ministry said.
“Serious progress has been made on security in the Gulf,” the state-run IRNA news agency said Thursday, citing ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh.
Iran and Saudi Arabia, opposing parties in multiple regional conflicts, have been engaged in talks since April to improve relations, for the first time since ties broke in 2016.
The talks were started under moderate former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and have continued since his ultra-conservative successor, Ebrahim Raisi, took office in August. The first talks took place with the help of Iraq.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Khatibzadeh said the talks were “good” and called on countries to resolve regional issues among themselves without foreign interference.
In Yemen, Iran supports the Houthi rebels who still control most of the north, including the capital Sana’a, despite more than six years of Saudi-led military efforts to oust them and support the internationally recognized government. The Houthis have often targeted Saudi oil installations and civilian sites.
Tehran’s support for regional proxies has been criticized by Arab neighbors as being destabilizing and detrimental to peace and security.
In Lebanon, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militant group plays a hegemonic role in politics, while its fighters have been heavily involved in neighboring Syria to support Assad’s government. In Iraq, his loyal factions challenge state authority and frequently target US sites.
Saudi King Salman said on Wednesday he hoped talks with Iran “would lead to tangible results in building confidence” and reviving bilateral “cooperation”.
In a videoconference speech to the General Assembly, the Saudi leader again called on Tehran to cease “any kind of support” for armed groups in the region and reaffirmed his kingdom’s support for “international efforts to prevent the Iran to develop nuclear weapons â.
Riyadh, an ally of Washington, Tehran’s nemesis, is concerned about Iran’s nuclear program, despite the Islamic Republic’s claim that it is only pursuing “peaceful” nuclear technology.