Saudi-Iran talks resume in Iraq

By: AFP
Published: 03:12 PM, 23 Apr, 2022
Saudi-Iran talks resume in Iraq
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Regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia have resumed key talks in the Iraqi capital Baghdad after negotiations were suspended last month, a senior Iraqi official said Saturday.

"Talks resumed last Thursday in Baghdad," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, and without giving further details.

Iran's Nour news agency confirmed a meeting attended by "senior officials from the secretariat of Iran's Supreme National Security Council and the head of the Saudi intelligence service".

Shiite-majority Iran and the Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia support rival sides in several conflict zones across the region, including in Yemen, where the Huthi rebels are backed by Tehran, and Riyadh leads a military coalition supporting the government.

In 2016, Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran after the kingdom executed revered Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

Riyadh responded by cutting ties with Tehran.

The talks in Iraq -- which borders both Iran and Saudi Arabia -- are the fifth round of meetings in the country in the past year between Tehran and Riyadh aimed at restoring ties.

"It is expected that a joint meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries will be held in the near future," Nour said, describing what it called the "positive atmosphere of the recent meeting, which raised the hopes of a resumption of bilateral relations".

In March, Iranian media reported that Tehran had suspended participation in talks after Saudi Arabia announced it had executed in just one day a record 81 people convicted of various crimes related to "terrorism", including men linked to Yemen's Huthi rebels.

But in early March, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said his country and Iran were "neighbours forever", and that it was "better for both of us to work it out and to look for ways in which we can coexist".

The comments were welcomed by Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

"We have different views and approaches on some issues in the region, but the management of differences by the sides can serve the interests of the two nations," Amir-Abdollahian said at the time.

Gunmen kill bodyguard of Iran general

Gunmen killed the bodyguard of a general from Iran's Revolutionary Guards on Saturday in an attack on a checkpoint in the country's restive southeast, state media said.

IRNA news agency said the shooting occurred in Sistan-Baluchistan, a province bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan that is often the scene of attacks or clashes between security forces and armed groups.

The slain bodyguard was identified as Mahmoud Absalan, the son of General Parviz Absalan, a commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the region.

State television said "criminals" had opened fire at the checkpoint, located at the entrance to the provincial capital of Zahedan.

IRNA said the security forces arrested those behind the attack.

Poverty-stricken Sistan-Baluchistan is a flashpoint for clashes with smuggling gangs, as well as separatists from the Baluchi minority and extremist militant groups.

In January, state media said three Guard members were among nine people killed in a clash with "armed criminals" in the same region.

And in November, IRNA said three members of the security forces were killed in similar circumstances also in Sistan-Baluchistan.

Saturday's deadly shooting comes two days after Iran announced the arrest in Sistan-Baluchistan of three people it said were linked to Israel's Mossad spy agency.

AFP

Agence France-Presse is an international news agency.