Iran Reaches Out to Saudi Arabia

By:  Warren Mass
Iran Reaches Out to Saudi Arabia

Iran’s foreign minister, speaking in Kuwait City, extended an open invitation to Saudi Arabia to “work together ... to promote peace and stability in the region.” 

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (shown in photo), during a recent public appearance in Kuwait City, extended an open invitation to Saudi Arabia to “work together in order to promote peace and stability in the region.” "We look at Saudi Arabia as an important and influential country in the region," he was quoted by AFP as saying.

Observers suspect that Iran’s overtures to Saudi Arabia and other nations in the Persian Gulf region are intended to assure its neighbors that its recent thaw in relations with the West — as exemplified by the deal reached in Geneva on November 24 between Iran and the P5+1 nations regarding Iran’s nuclear fuel enrichment program — should not be construed as a turning away from close ties with its neighbors.

P5+1 refers to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the United States, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and France — plus Germany.

Zarif reassured Iran’s Gulf neighbors that the Geneva agreement “cannot be at the expense of any country in the region,” promising them: “Be assured that the nuclear deal is in favor of the stability and security of the region.”

Prior to this latest regional tour, Zarif wrote an opinion piece in the Saudi-owned daily Asharq Al-Awsat, in which he emphasized that “notwithstanding the focus on our interactions with the West, the reality is that our primary foreign policy priority is our region.”

The Indian newspaper The Hindu observed that Zarif’s outreach to the Saudis is significant, since prior to the Geneva agreement being reached, members of “the Saudi establishment” made it clear that they were opposed to the deal.

The Hindu also cited an interview granted by Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, the Saudi ambassador to Britain, to the British Times, in which he warned that Saudi Arabia would not “sit idly by” if the Western powers failed to stop Iran’s nuclear program.

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