The two major oil-producing competitors of the Middle East, Iran and Saudi Arabia, have agreed to reestablish ties and reopen embassies seven years after relations were cut.
Riyadh severed ties with Tehran in 2016 when Iranian protestors assaulted Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran in response to the murder of revered Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr. In recent years, the conflict between primarily Shia Iran and predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia has dominated Middle Eastern affairs, expanding to Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen.
The deal was reached after Beijing-based negotiations mediated by China. Iran’s national news agency Irna said, citing a joint statement, that Iran and Saudi Arabia decided to resume diplomatic relations and reopen embassies within two months as a result of the negotiations.
The Saudi News Agency confirmed the agreement, which stated that the two nations committed to respect each other’s state sovereignty and refrain from interfering in each other’s internal affairs.
The pact may have far-reaching ramifications for the Iran nuclear deal and the civil war in Yemen, where the two sides are engaged in a proxy conflict, and demonstrates Saudi Arabia’s new will to pursue an independent foreign policy.
Saudi Arabia and Iran have been negotiating a potential reconciliation for years, primarily in Iraq, therefore it is surprising that the agreement was signed in China.