Saudi Arabia and Iran to resume direct flights

Saudi Arabia and Iran have agreed to resume direct flights between their countries as a major step towards restoring diplomatic ties, following a meeting of their foreign ministers, Prince Faisal bin Farhan and Hossein Amirabdollahian, in Beijing on Thursday. In addition, visas will be issued for each other’s citizens, and both private and state bilateral visits will resume, as per the joint statement released by Saudi Arabia and Iran. The reopening of embassies and consulates will begin soon, and it will take up to two months to complete, according to the statement.

This is the first official meeting between the two countries’ most senior foreign ministry officials since ties were severed seven years ago. The leaders will follow up on a deal brokered by China last month to reconcile relations and reopen embassies. The meeting highlights China’s increasing influence in the region, one that is being monitored by the US.

The move is expected to reduce the chance of armed conflict between the former rivals, both directly and in proxy conflicts around the region. The leaders also discussed reviving a security agreement signed nearly two decades ago that stipulated co-operation on terrorism, drug smuggling, and money laundering, and to revive a trade and technology deal from 1998.

In 2016, Riyadh severed ties with Tehran after protesters invaded Saudi diplomatic posts in Iran after the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric in the kingdom. However, since April 2021, the two sides have held five rounds of negotiations in Baghdad. Prince Faisal also met with Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang during the meeting, where they discussed the Saudi-China relationship and the positive role played by China in reaching the Saudi-Iranian agreement.

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