UPDATE 2 - Iran's FM holds talks in Riyadh, says ties with Saudi Arabia on 'right track'

UPDATE 2 - Iran's FM holds talks in Riyadh, says ties with Saudi Arabia on 'right track'

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian arrived in Riyadh on first visit since rapprochement

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By Syed Zafar Mehdi (AA) - Iran and Saudi Arabia are important countries in the West Asian region and are committed to expanding relations in all fields, the Iranian foreign minister said on Thursday.

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian made the remarks at a joint press conference with his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Riyadh on the first official visit by an Iranian foreign minister in more than seven years.

Accompanied by a high-level delegation, he arrived in the Saudi capital on Thursday.

The much-anticipated visit, Iran's state media said, aims to "facilitate and speed up the implementation of agreements" reached between the two sides in March in Beijing when they resolved to restore diplomatic ties.

At the joint presser, Iran's foreign minister said relations between the two countries are "on the right track and progressing," and that Tehran and Riyadh agreed on a framework for "following up and developing" ties through expert committees.

He said the two sides agreed on implementing existing agreements in security, trade, economy and other areas.

Amir-Abdollahian said he discussed with his Saudi counterpart the idea of "regional dialogue and cooperation" in continuation of his previous talks with regional leaders, stressing the importance of "security and development" in the Persian Gulf.

In line with the Ebrahim Raisi government's emphasis on a "neighborhood-first" policy, the top Iranian diplomat noted that Iran has expanded ties with regional countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE.

He also referred to discussions between the two sides regarding the activities of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the issue of Palestine, asserting that Israel wants to "divide and rule the region."

On President Raisi's upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia, on the invitation of King Salman, Amir-Abdollahian said the visit will take place at the "right time," describing talks between foreign ministers as a "prelude" to the meeting with the heads of two states.

For his part, the Saudi foreign minister referred to his country's "serious determination" to develop ties with Iran, especially in the security sphere, and said he hopes a "new page" will be opened in Tehran-Riyadh ties.

Prince Farhan said embassies in the two countries have reopened based on agreement reached in Beijing in March.

The two sides also discussed the idea of holding friendly sports competitions between the two countries.

Iran's foreign minister is also expected to meet Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman during the trip.

Iran's newly-appointed ambassador to Riyadh, Alireza Enayati, who is part of the delegation, will start his diplomatic mission in the Arab country this week, which will be followed by the deputation of the Saudi envoy to Tehran.

Enayati, a senior Iranian diplomat and former ambassador to Kuwait, was appointed as the new Iranian ambassador to Saudi Arabia in May, weeks before Iran reopened its embassy in Riyadh as well as the consulate in the port city of Jeddah.

Last week, the embassy of Saudi Arabia in Tehran also resumed its operations after more than seven years, as reported by Iran's state media.

Iran and Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties in January 2016 after the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad were stormed by angry mobs following the execution of a Saudi Shia cleric.

The two neighbors started negotiations to revive ties in April 2021, brokered by Iraq and Oman. After nearly two years, the breakthrough was reached courtesy of China.

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