Top Saudi diplomat to visit Iran, the latest to restore diplomatic ties after 7 years of severance

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat is coming to visit Tehran, the latest step in restoring diplomatic ties between the two Middle Eastern rivals, an Iranian statement said Friday.

The statement said Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan will meet his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian on Saturday. Prince Faisal is also expected to officially inaugurate the kingdom’s embassy in Tehran.

The two nations have resumed the work of their diplomatic missions in the other country in recent weeks.

The Iranian Foreign Minister’s visit comes after a visit to Saudi Arabia by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in early June. In March, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to restore diplomatic relations and reopen embassies after seven years of tension.

It was a major diplomatic breakthrough brokered by China, reducing the risk of further conflict between Riyadh and Tehran – both directly and in proxy disputes in the region.

Iran has been blamed for a series of attacks in recent years following the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers in 2018, including one targeting the heartland of the oil industry. Saudi Arabia in 2019, temporarily halving the kingdom’s crude production.

Relations between Shia-majority Iran and Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia have long been strained. The kingdom severed ties with Iran in 2016 after protesters swarmed Saudi diplomatic posts there. Saudi Arabia had executed a prominent Shia cleric along with other 46 days earlier, sparking the protests.

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