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Source: NY Times

Mar 10, 2023

Protesters outside Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran in 2016. Saudi Arabia cut its ties with Iran that year after protesters stormed the embassy following Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric. Credit...Reuters

By Vivian Nereim

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia and Iran reached an agreement that paves the way for the re-establishment of diplomatic ties after a seven-year split, a major realignment between regional rivals, the countries said Friday in a joint statement.

Saudi and Iranian officials announced the agreement after talks hosted this week in China, which maintains close ties with both countries, according to the statement, which was published by the official Saudi Press Agency. Iran’s state media also announced an agreement.

The two countries agreed to reactivate a lapsed security cooperation agreement — a shift that comes after years of Iranian proxies targeting Saudi Arabia with missile and drone attacks — as well as older trade, investment and cultural pacts.

Saudi Arabia and Iran will reopen embassies in each other’s countries within two months, and both states confirmed “their respect for the sovereignty of nations and non-interference in their internal affairs,” the statement said.

After years of regional rivalry, Saudi Arabia cut its ties with Iran completely in 2016, when protesters stormed the kingdom’s embassy in Tehran following Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Saudi Shiite cleric.

The conflict between the two Islamic nations, located less than 150 miles away from each other across the Persian Gulf, has long shaped politics and trade in the Middle East.

Tensions hit a peak in 2019, when a missile and drone assault on a key Saudi oil installation briefly disrupted half of the kingdom’s crude production; U.S. officials said the attack was overseen directly by Iran.

The two countries have also faced off in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting Houthi rebels who Iran has supported.

Saudi officials have also repeatedly expressed fear over Iran’s nuclear program, saying that they would be the foremost target for the Islamic Republic. However, over the past few years, they have engaged in a series of talks with Iranian delegations, with both sides hoping to ease tensions.

Vivian Nereim is the Gulf bureau chief. She has more than a decade of experience in the Arabian Peninsula and was previously a reporter for Bloomberg News covering Saudi Arabia. @viviannereim

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