The statements of Ambassador Raed Qarmali, Director of the Policy Planning Department at the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, represent the first public confirmation by Riyadh of direct talks with Tehran.
“We hope that the talks will succeed, but it is too early to reach any specific conclusions,” Qarmali said.
Media reports talked about a Saudi delegation led by the head of the intelligence service, Khaled bin Ali Al-Humaidan, with Iranian officials in Baghdad on April 9th. The kingdom is expected to hold more talks this month, according to multiple sources, including a Western official familiar with the talks.
The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the meetings with the Saudi side, but did not talk about consensuses so far.
The dialogue hosted by Iraq represents the first serious effort to defuse tensions since relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran were cut in 2016, after Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran were attacked against the background of the execution of a Shiite opposition cleric in the Kingdom.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made positive statements towards Iran, describing it as a neighbor, stressing the importance of dialogue to end disputes in the region and bring peace.
Riyadh is seeking support from Tehran that will help end its six-year military engagement in neighboring Yemen, where the Houthi rebels are waging a campaign to take control of Marib, the last government stronghold in the north, and are escalating their strikes with missiles and drones on the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia and Iran have supported opposing sides in many regional conflicts, from Syria to Yemen. Riyadh considers the armed groups backed by Tehran a major threat, especially after several attacks on its oil facilities.
The moves come as US President Joe Biden is pressing to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that his predecessor Donald Trump left.
Analysts say the renewed diplomatic effort confirms the conviction in Riyadh that Trump’s “maximum pressure” policy aimed at pushing for concessions from Iran has not borne fruit.