Iran’s Foreign Minister has dampened the prospect of an easing of tensions with Saudi Arabia, saying that he sees no positive behavior from Riyadh.
In an interview with the Iranian Students News Agency, Mohammad Javad Zarif pointed to an initiative by Gulf States for better relations, encouraged by Tehran, but he said that the Saudis had not followed up.
The letter from the Emir of Kuwait that was delivered to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani by the Kuwaiti Foreign Minister was written on behalf of all the Arabian countries of the Persian Gulf. It showed that the Saudis, to all appearances, agreed with the message’s content — but in the political behavior of Saudi authorities we do not see [anything] positive….
Their politics and stances just foment tensions in the region, rather than use the current conditions for dialogue and interaction. Unfortunately, some of the regional countries held out some hope of the previous negative atmosphere and pressures. When we reached a nuclear deal and the pressures have been removed, they do all the best to revive the previous atmosphere!
He further pushed Saudi Arabia’s Gulf neighbors, “We believe that diplomats will choose the right way after tried the wrong ways. Some of our neighbors have tried all the wrong ways enough. Maybe the time has come that they choose and try the right way.”
Iran and Saudi Arabia have been long-time rivals in the region, but relations have worsened since January 2016. After the Saudis executed a prominent Shia cleric, a crowd attacked and burned the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, leading Riyadh to break relations with the Islamic Republic. There are serious disputes over the Syrian civil war — where Iran supports the Assad regime and the Saudis back the opposition and rebels — and Riyadh’s military intervention in the Yemeni civil war, where Iran assists the Houthi insurgency.
In a limited sign of possible rapprochement, Iranian and Saudi officials have been discussing the return of Iran’s pilgrims to the hajj in Mecca. The pilgrimage was suspended after a crush in September 2015 near Mecca left 464 Iranians among thousands of dead.
President Rouhani and Zarif have favored an approach of engagement with Saudi Arabia since taking office in August 2013, but they have been checked by other factions in the regime.