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Iranian expert says Iran-Saudi ties continue to grow one year after landmark agreement

One year after a Beijing-brokered agreement resumed diplomatic ties, Iran and Saudi Arabia are steadily promoting relations despite regional turbulence, indicating the strength and depth of the rapprochement, said Iranian foreign policy expert Abas Aslani.

“The two countries are gradually promoting bilateral ties in a step-by-step manner,” Aslani, the Tehran-based analyst told Xinhua in a recent interview.

On March 10, 2023, the regional rivals agreed to reopen embassies and exchange ambassadors, ending a seven-year diplomatic freeze.

Aslani highlighted positive developments in the past year, including reciprocal visits by high-ranking officials like Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and his Saudi counterpart. Notably, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi attended a summit in Riyadh in November, meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud.

He added that the two nations are reportedly aiming for 1 billion U.S. dollars in annual trade in the first step, with plans to double that figure in the medium term.

However, Aslani also pointed out the persistent challenge posed by U.S. sanctions on Iran, especially following Washington’s exit from the 2015 nuclear accord, which could impede economic collaboration.

Aslani noted that regional crises, especially the conflict in Gaza, haven’t derailed the improvement in relations, which indicates a deeper reconciliation than initially perceived.

The thaw has also reportedly influenced other Arab states.

Following the resumption of Iran-Saudi ties, Egypt has engaged more with Iran, Aslani said. Additionally, Syria’s reintegration into the Arab League in May 2023 is seen as partly linked to the broader regional detente.

Aslani attributed China’s diplomatic efforts to fostering a collaborative atmosphere in the Middle East, highlighting China’s preference for regional cooperation over confrontation — a stark contrast to the U.S. approach of leveraging divisions to promote arms sales.

Famagusta Gazette