Iran Says “Always Open” For Negotiations With Saudi Arabia

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Iran Says "Always Open" For Negotiations With Saudi Arabia

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Iran is always open to negotiations with Saudi Arabia, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

“We have seen media reports about talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia, although the reports sometimes had contradictory quotes,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told a weekly news conference.

“What is important is that the Islamic Republic of Iran has always welcomed dialogue with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and considers it in the interest of the people of the two countries, as well as peace and stability in the region,” he added.

This confirmation came after media reports that Riyadh and Tehran held secret talks in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad.

The two countries severed diplomatic ties in 2016 and have been engaged in several proxy wars in the region.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman refused to confirm or deny the reported talks on April 9 in Baghdad, but added that media outlets have used “contradictory quotes” and have had a history of fabricating news.

Khatibzadeh, however, pointed out that Iran “has always welcomed talks with the Saudi kingdom and has deemed it beneficial to the two countries’ people and regional peace and stability, and this thought will continue”.

Iraq holds close ties with neighbouring Iran, and several high-level political delegations have travelled to Tehran to discuss the region in recent months.

Reports of the direct Iran-Saudi Arabia talks also come as Iran and world powers are weeks into negotiations in Vienna to restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Iran has accused the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), led by Saudi Arabia, of trying to derail the talks. It also says that the US would lift sanctions from Iran if the talks were successful.

The GCC states have repeatedly said they wish to be included in the talks and have called for the JCPOA’s expansion to curb Iran’s missile programme and its increasing regional influence.

The alleged April 9 meeting in Iraq, first reported by the Financial Times, did not lead to any breakthrough, the Iranian official and one of the regional sources familiar with the matter said.

The regional source said the meeting focused on Yemen, where a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthi group since March 2015.

“This was a low-level meeting to explore whether there might be a way to ease ongoing tensions in the region,” the Iranian official said, adding that it was based on Iraq’s request.

One of the sources said the meeting, arranged by Iraq’s prime minister who visited Saudi Arabia earlier this month, had focused on Yemen, where the Saudi-led coalition fights against the Iran-backed Ansar Allah.

A second regional source said the talks also touched on Lebanon, which is facing a political vacuum amid a dire financial crisis. Gulf Arab states are alarmed by the expanding role of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement.

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