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Iran looking to improve ties with Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia, September 6, 2017

While Tehran-Riyadh ties are at their worst in years, the recent remarks by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif signal Tehran’s intention to improve relations with the regional rival, though Riyadh steel appears reluctant.

“Saudi Arabia is considered as a significant Islamic country therefore we are ready to cooperate with them [Saudis] on the issue of Rohingya Muslims,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said at a televised interview last night.

He also expressed Iran’s interest in cooperation with Saudi Arabia to resolve regional crisis.

This is not the only positive signal coming from Tehran as an Iranian official on the same day thanked the kingdom for its handling of the annual hajj pilgrimage.

However, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir immediately denied any warming of relations with the Islamic Republic, urging Iran to change its policies.

“If Iran wants to have good relations with Saudi Arabia, it has to change its policies. It has to respect international law,” he said.

“At this time, we do not see... that they’re serious about wanting to be a good neighbor,” Reuters quoted al-Jubeir as saying at a press conference in London.

Earlier in August, Zarif and his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir shook hands on the sidelines of an Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting in Turkey, in a move that could be interpreted as an improvement in ties.

Tehran and Riyadh accuse each other of destabilizing the regional security and supporting opposite sides in conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

The two countries have severed diplomatic relations since January 2016 after Iranians stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran protesting against the Saudi decision to behead a prominent Shia cleric.

Despite reasons behind hostility between the two Muslim countries, both sides, the Islamic Republic and the kingdom, need to reach a mutual understanding to safeguard the regional stability.

President Hassan Rouhani’s administration appear to make efforts aimed at easing hostilities but success there depends on whether Riyadh is responsive to Tehran’s signals.