Iran FM on first Saudi visit since ties restored: state media
Updated 20:35, 17-Aug-2023

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian arrived in Riyadh and met with his Saudi counterpart Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud on Thursday, starting his first official Saudi trip since a landmark rapprochement in March.

The one-day visit "is focusing on bilateral ties, regional and international issues", said Iranian state broadcaster IRIB.

It reported early Thursday that Amir-Abdollahian "will leave Tehran for Riyadh in a few hours."

Shiite-dominated Iran and Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia had severed ties in 2016 after Saudi diplomatic missions in the Islamic republic were attacked during protests over Riyadh's execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

A Chinese-brokered deal announced in March saw the long-time rivals agreeing to restore diplomatic relations and reopen their respective embassies.

In June, Prince Faisal bin Farhan became the first Saudi foreign minister to travel to Iran since 2006.

Earlier that month, Iran reopened its embassy in Riyadh with a flag-raising ceremony.

And in another first since bilateral ties were restored, Iranian state media reported on Wednesday that military officials from both countries met in Moscow on the sidelines of a security conference.

Amir-Abdollahian has said this week that Iran's new ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Alireza Enayati, "will accompany" him on Thursday's visit to "officially start his mission."

On August 9, Iran said the Saudi embassy in Tehran had begun operations, but Riyadh has yet to confirm the same.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have backed opposing sides in conflicts across the Middle East for years.

Iran has, in recent months, been at odds with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait over a disputed gas field.

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait claim "sole ownership" to the field -- known as Arash in Iran and Dorra in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia -- with Tehran warning it would "pursue its right" to the offshore zone if negotiations fail.

(With input from AFP)

(Cover: Iranian Foreign Minister Amir-Abdollahian listens to a question in a joint press conference with his Syrian counterpart Faisal Mekdad in Tehran, Iran, July 31, 2023. /CFP)

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