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Top Iran diplomat: Tehran ready for closer ties with Riyadh

May 12, 2021 GMT
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In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syria's Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, second left front, receives his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, center, on his arrival to the airport, in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Zarif said his country is ready for closer ties with its regional rival Saudi Arabia, saying Wednesday he hoped recent talks would lead to greater stability in the region. (SANA via AP)
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In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syria's Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad, second left front, receives his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, center, on his arrival to the airport, in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Zarif said his country is ready for closer ties with its regional rival Saudi Arabia, saying Wednesday he hoped recent talks would lead to greater stability in the region. (SANA via AP)

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Iran’s foreign minister said Wednesday that his country is ready for closer ties with regional rival Saudi Arabia, adding that he hoped recent talks between the two sides would lead to greater stability in the region.

Mohammad Javad Zarif was speaking in Damascus after a meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Baghdad recently confirmed it hosted Iraq-mediated talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia last month. The talks have occurred “more than once,” the hosts said, describing the discussions as ongoing, “important and significant.”

Zarif said he hoped they would “come to fruition” and lead to cooperation between the two rivals to bring more stability and peace to the region, particularly in Yemen.

“We certainly are ready and have always been ready for close ties with Saudi Arabia,” Zarif told reporters in Damascus, speaking in English.

Tehran and Riyadh have long been rivals and support opposite sides in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere in the region.

Relations worsened considerably in 2016, when Riyadh removed its diplomats after protesters attacked its embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad in retaliation for the kingdom executing a prominent Shiite cleric, Nimr al-Nimr. In Syria’s civil war, Riyadh has supported the Syrian opposition while Tehran backed Assad’s forces in the 10-year conflict.

Asked if the Iran-Saudi talks would lead to improved relations between Damascus and Riyadh, Zarif said: “I am sure our Syrian brothers have always welcomed cooperation in the Arab world. And we are also in that mood.”