Date :Sunday, August 12th, 2018 | Time : 01:06 |ID: 68499 | Print

the office for the protection of Iran interests will open in Saudi Arabia

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SHAFAQNA – Saudi Arabia has agreed to admit an Iranian diplomat to head an office representing Iranian interests in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic relations with its long-time regional rival, Iran, in 2016 following attack on its Embassy in Teheran by protesters, outraged by the execution of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, along with 42 other people convicted of terrorism by the kingdom.

After two years the official Iranian news agency IRNA, citing an informed diplomatic source, has reported that Saudi Arabia had agreed to issue a visa to the chief and staffers of Iran’s interests section, who are slated to take on diplomatic functions.

According to Reuters, Saudi Arabia has agreed to admit an Iranian diplomat to head an office representing Iranian interests in the kingdom, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported in a rare move after the rivals broke off relations in 2016.

“An informed diplomatic source said that Saudi Arabia had agreed to grant a visa to the head … of Iran’s interests section,” IRNA reported.

“Observers saw this as a positive diplomatic step in Tehran-Riyadh relations.

There was no immediate official Saudi reaction to the Iranian report.

The office is expected to be set up within the Swiss diplomatic mission in Saudi Arabia, based on an agreement signed in 2017, the news reported.

Both countries agreed to Switzerland’s offer of its traditional policy of good offices and to act as a diplomatic channel between the two countries.

Riyadh severed diplomatic relations

The kingdom, the regional rival of mostly Shi’ite Iran, presents itself as the guardian of Islamic orthodoxy and custodian of its holiest places in Mecca and Medina.

Riyadh severed diplomatic relations after Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi Embassy in Tehran following the execution of a Shi’ite cleric in Saudi Arabia in January 2016.

Saudi Arabia welcomed Donald Trump’s decision in May to withdraw the United States from an international nuclear agreement with Iran and to reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran.

Tensions between the two countries have surged in recent years, with Saudi Arabia and Iran supporting opposite sides in wars in Syria and Yemen and rival political parties in Iraq and Lebanon.

A “breakthrough” in relations

In an interview published on the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s website, the ministry spokesman said there had been a “breakthrough” in relations between the two regional rivals.

“Up until two weeks ago, no visa had been issued for the names that we had submitted a long time ago,” spokesman Bahram Qasemi said.

“But within the last week or two, there has been a breakthrough and I think there are indications that the office for the protection of interests will be opened,” he added, Daily Star reported.

In December 2017, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani named two conditions for restoring “good relations” between the two countries: Riyadh should “stop the misguided friendship with Israel and the inhumane bombardment of Yemen,” Sputnik News mentioned.

The move is the first since the two countries broke off diplomatic ties in 2016.

However, a Saudi official told Arab News that the decision signals “no change in position whatsoever” with regards to the relationship with Iran.

Following the approval by Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry, head of the Oman and Yemen Department at Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Alibek, has been appointed as the caretaker of the Islamic Republic’s interests section in the city of Jeddah, the official Iranian news agency further said, almanar reported.

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