TEHRAN, Iran — Iran resumed talks with regional rival Saudi Arabia months after secret Baghdad-brokered talks were suspended, state-linked media reported Saturday.
The Iranian news website Nournews, considered to be close to the country’s Supreme National Security Council, said a fifth round of talks was held in Baghdad. It said that high-ranking security officials on both sides, as well as Omani and Iraqi officials were involved. The exact date of the talks was unclear. In September, the fourth round was held.
Nournews reported a positive atmosphere permeated the talks increasing hopes for “steps on the path of resumption of ties” between the two nations, including a joint meeting of foreign ministers. Nournews published another photo showing two Iranian- and Saudi officials standing side by Mustafa al-Kadhimi, the Iraqi prime minister.
Iraq borders both Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Iran, the largest Shiite Muslim country in the world, and Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties in 2016 after Saudi Arabia executed prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr. Two Saudi diplomatic missions to Iran were stormed by angry Iranian protestors after the execution. This sparked animosity that has been ongoing for years.
In March, Tehran said it temporarily suspend the talks, aimed at defusing yearslong tensions, after Saudi Arabia put to death 81 people convicted of crimes ranging from killings to ties to militant groups. According to activists, more than three dozen Shiites are believed to have been executed.
The Baghdad-mediated talks between the regional foes began quietly in Iraq’s capital last year as Saudi Arabia sought a way to end its disastrous war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. This conflict is one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in history. It has brought down bombs, missiles, and drones to Saudi oil installations and airports.
Saudi Shiites, who live primarily in the kingdom’s oil-rich east, have long complained of being treated as second-class citizens. In the past, Saudi Arabia has executed Shiites. This caused unrest throughout the region.