Iran to reopen embassy in Saudi Arabia today

In a significant development towards mending a seven-year-old diplomatic rift, Iran has announced its decision to reopen its embassy in Saudi Arabia this week.

In a brief statement issued on Monday, Nasser Kanani, the spokesperson for the Iranian foreign ministry, confirmed that Iran’s embassy in Riyadh would reopen on Tuesday, followed by the reopening of its consulate in Jeddah and its representative office with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation a day later.

According to Kanani, the embassy and consulate have already begun operations to facilitate Hajj pilgrimages. The official reopening will take place in the presence of foreign ministry officials from both nations.

This move follows a China-brokered agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, signed in Beijing on March 10th, which stipulated a two-month deadline for the embassies’ reopening.

Although Iranian authorities noted that the embassies had started conducting some practical work, they required additional time for an official reopening, given that the buildings had remained closed for years.

As of yet, there’s no official confirmation regarding when the Saudi embassy in Tehran or the kingdom’s consulate in Mashhad will officially reopen or who will be appointed as its ambassador.

Iranian state-linked media reported last month that Tehran had chosen Alireza Enayati, a former envoy to Kuwait and a foreign ministry deputy for regional affairs, as its envoy to Riyadh.

In 2016, Riyadh severed diplomatic ties with Tehran after its representative offices were stormed during protests against the execution of a Shia religious leader by the Sunni-majority kingdom.

Recent months have seen these two regional powerhouses steadily easing tensions, a step they claim will help enhance security across the region.

Post the agreement in March, other countries in the region have also begun following Saudi Arabia’s lead towards normalising relations with Syria and its president, Bashar al-Assad. This follows his ostracisation post his brutal repression of protests in 2011, which sparked a decade-long civil war. Saudi Arabia has also been increasingly engaging with the Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen, where Riyadh and Tehran have supported opposing sides in the country’s civil war since 2015.

Image Credit: Fayez Nureldine / AFP