Saudi Arabia and Iran announced on Friday, March 10, that they have agreed to reestablish diplomatic ties after seven years of hostility, in a deal that could have far-reaching consequences for the Middle East.
In a joint statement, Riyadh and Tehran stated that they plan to reopen their embassies within two months, thanks to a deal brokered by China.
They also intend to re-enact a security agreement signed 22 years ago under which both parties agreed to cooperate on terrorism, drug trafficking, and money laundering, as well as revive a trade and technology agreement signed in 1998.
The announcement on Friday is also a diplomatic victory for China in the Middle East, which has long been considered part of the US’ sphere of influence. It comes as the Biden administration attempts to forge its own Middle East victory by mediating a peace deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
According to Iranian state media, talks have been ongoing in Beijing since March 6 between Iranian national security chief Ali Shamkhani, Saudi national security council adviser Mosaed Bin Mohammad Al-Aiban, and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi.
Iranian media broadcast video of the signing ceremony, which showed officials seated around tables on opposite sides, with Saudi, Iranian, and Chinese flags surrounding them.
“We will continue to play a constructive role in properly dealing with today’s hotspot issues in accordance with the wishes of all countries and demonstrate our responsibility as a major country,” Wang said, adding that Chinese President Xi Jinping has supported it from the start.
In a rebuttal to American influence in global politics, Wang stated that “the world is not limited to the Ukraine issue,” emphasizing that the fate of the Middle East should be determined by its people.
“The two countries’ foreign ministers will meet to implement this decision and make necessary arrangements for the exchange of ambassadors,” the joint statement said.
“The two parties agree to respect each other’s sovereignty and refrain from interfering in each other’s internal affairs.”
Saudi Arabia and Iran had previously held reconciliation talks in Oman and Iraq.
Riyadh severed ties with Tehran in 2016 after Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran in response to the Saudi execution of a Shi’ite cleric. They have since fought a proxy war that has engulfed a number of neighboring countries, primarily Yemen, bringing the region ever closer to war.
In Yemen, the two countries have backed opposing sides in a civil war described by the UN as one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. From there, the Houthi rebels launched missiles at Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, destroying oil infrastructure critical to both countries’ economies.
The agreement also comes as Iran finds itself increasingly isolated on the global stage, as talks to resurrect Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers have stalled, and relations with Western states have been strained further as a result of the Islamic Republic’s brutal crackdown on protests, which began in September.
Iran’s main international ally, Russia, is preoccupied with the Ukrainian conflict, while China, its other ally, has recently courted Tehran’s archrival, Saudi Arabia.