Expert: Bilateral ties, not Yemen case, should be discussed in Iranian-Saudi talks

Expert: Bilateral ties, not Yemen case, should be discussed in Iranian-Saudi talks

On May 18, Andishe Sazan-e-Nour Institute for Strategic Studies in Tehran hosted a meeting on the "future of Saudi-Iranian relations." The meeting discussed the current Tehran-Riyadh talks, and regional affairs expert Saadullah Zaree elaborated on the negotiations.

AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): On May 18, Andishe Sazan-e-Nour Institute for Strategic Studies in Tehran hosted a meeting on the "future of Saudi-Iranian relations." The meeting discussed the current Tehran-Riyadh talks, and regional affairs expert Saadullah Zaree elaborated on the negotiations. 

Iran-Saudi relations always challenge-stricken 

In the beginning, Mr Zaree referred to a history full of challenges between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Historically, he continued, the relations between the two have been very volatile, and although the history of these challenges dates back to before the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran, these relations have always faced important developments after the revolution, including the tragedy of the massacre of Iranian pilgrims in Mecaa in 1987 by the Saudis, Riyadh crackdown on the Shiite youths in 1979 in Masjid al-Haram, and later the Mena tragedy in 2015 which killed more than 10,000 people, including about 470 Iranian pilgrims, and showed the irresponsibility of the Saudi rulers towards citizens of other countries. Add to this the Saudi embassy events in Tehran, which followed the execution of the prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, at the hands of a group of 57 predominantly Shiite people, which led to Saudi Arabia severing diplomatic ties with Iran. The incident of the Saudi embassy in Tehran, which is normal and can happen to foreign embassies anywhere in the world and many embassies including those of Iran, can be settled by dialogue. 

"Despite the fact that the Iranian government had nothing to do with the incidents to the Saudi embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad, the Saudis took this as a excuse to cut off their ties with Iran and press other countries to take similar steps." 

He continued that at the beginning of the Islamic Revolution, Imam Khomeini received a delegation of Saudis and emphasized the development of relations with Saudi Arabia. After that, a delegation from Iran went to Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic showed that it is interested in friendly relations with Saudi Arabia. Later, Iran showed great self-restraint in the face of Saudi Arabia's hostilities and mistreatments. Among other things, we should mention Iran's self-restraint during the Saudi support for Iraq in Saddam's war on Iran. This war was fought with the open and direct support of Saudi Arabia for the Iraqi dictator. 

"In the tragedy of 1987, Iran showed a lot of self-restraint, and in the tragedy of Mena, as well as in the incident in which 17 Iranians were killed when a crane fell in the Holy Mosque, we witnessed maximum self-restraint from Iran." 

Baghdad talks are distracted from discussing bilateral relations 

Commenting on the bilateral ties of the two countries, Mr Zaree held that the talks in Baghdad are not much discussing bilateral Iranian-Saudi relations and the Saudi side tries to solve its problems in Yemen through Baghdad talks. 

"What is being discussed in Baghdad is not following the principle of bilateral ties. These negotiations are discussing Saudi issues of interest. The Saudi priority is Yemen to settle their war challenges rather than talk about reestablishing ties with Iran. Although in the last round they talked about some bilateral matters, we have not seen a considerable agreement or actions on their bilateral ties." 

Mr Zaree went on, saying that Iran makes it clear that Yemen case is not in its hands and Yemen itself has a government and Iran is not playing a mediation role in the negotiations. Tehran suggests that the best way for Yemen problems is face-to-face Riyadh-Sana'a dialogue. 

"So, I can say that the current Iranian-Saudi talks are faulty in relation to reestablishment of bilateral ties. Actually, the Saudi problems with a third country have caused it to resort to negotiations with Iran though Yemen is an independent state and has its own government that can sit on the negotiating table with the Saudis. Albeit, if the Iranian-Saudi relations develop and embassies reopen, we can hope for opening various cases. But currently the topic of Baghdad dialogue is not bilateral relations, and the Saudis mainly seek a settlement for Yemen war challenges through talks with Tehran. 

"Iran's stated policy is that it would not negotiate its military power and regional presence and if Tehran in Baghdad talks with the US or the Saudis as American proxies, there would be some risks undermining its determination not to negotiate the regional issues. Iran should not enter talks that lead to another Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). While the nuclear agreement is not concluded yet, these talks should not put Iran in the face of another JCPOA. Iran should make sure that the talks would not discuss the regional cases settlement of Yemen issue in line with the Saudi policy. In the present conditions, they should focus on issues that re directly related Iranian-Saudi ties. 

Suspicious US moves in the middle of Baghdad talks 

Mr Zaree addressed some "suspicious" American moves. For example, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's talks with the Kuwaiti emir and telling him that Iran would soon accept talks on the regional issues, or some demands for regional talks made by the American negotiation team to the Iranian team in Vienna. 

"The Americans should not be allowed to abuse the Iranian interest in restoring relations with Saudi Arabia. Dialogue with Saudi Arabia should be pursued on its own path and should not be overshadowed by the Yemeni issue. We hope that bilateral relations will be on the agenda of the Baghdad talks. Dialogue on Yemen should take place with the Yemeni government itself and the Yemeni issue should not be included in the Riyadh talks with Tehran. Because this war is an issue between Yemen and Saudi Arabia and has nothing to do with Iran. Saudi Arabia, which has suffered a lot so far, is trying to free itself from the powerful hands of the Yemenis without fulfilling its responsibility, and for that, it is trying to make Iran a path to reconciliation with Yemen." 

Negotiations outlook 

The outlook for Iranian-Saudi talks was another issue discussed during the meeting. Mr Zaree said that since the first round, the Iranian delegation emphasized bilateral issues, but the Saudi side has focused on the issue of Yemen, and this issue has led to a gap between the negotiation rounds. The Saudis want to negotiate on issues that concern another country than Iran. 

About the optimism regarding the negotiations outcome, Mr Zaree held: "If the Saudis agree to focus on the bilateral ties in the talks, there would be hope, but so far they have stubbornly resisted this idea because they believe that Tehran-Riyadh relation restoration at present would reduce the pressures on Iran and this privilege should not be granted to Iran. Tehran has its relations and diplomacy active in Iran, but Saudi Arabia, which is part of the American-led maximum pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic, has so far not welcomed restoration of diplomatic ties."

Mr Zaree also pointed to the Israeli view of the talks, saying that the Israeli regime seeks to direct the negotiations to some regional cases, but if they remain within the path of bilateral ties, Tel Aviv would try to mar them.


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