An Iranian delegation arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, Tehran said, to pave the way for reopening diplomatic missions as the Gulf rivals prepare to normalise relations, seven years after an acrimonious split.
The announcement came just days after a Saudi delegation made a similar visit to Iran’s capital, following a historic meeting in China between the two governments’ foreign ministers who vowed to bring stability to the turbulent region.
“In accordance with the implementation of the agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia on the resumption of diplomatic activities… the Iranian technical delegation arrived in Riyadh at midday Wednesday and was welcomed by Saudi officials,” said Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani.
“The Iranian delegation will take the necessary steps to reopen the embassy in Riyadh and the consulate general in Jeddah as well as the activities of Iran’s permanent representative in the (Jeddah-based) Organisation of Islamic Cooperation,” he said in a statement.
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi has been invited to Saudi Arabia, according to Tehran. It would be the first trip by an Iranian president to Saudi Arabia since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2012 travelled to Mecca where he attended a regional meeting.
The flurry of diplomatic activity follows last month’s landmark, Chinese-brokered announcement that Iran and Saudi Arabia, who have backed opposing sides in conflicts around the Middle East, would work towards resuming ties.
Riyadh broke off relations in 2016 after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions following the execution of Saudi Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr – one in a series of flashpoints between the long-time foes.
Since the March 10 announcement, the two countries’ foreign ministers have met in China and a Saudi technical delegation met Iran’s chief of protocol in Tehran last week, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.
The Saudi delegation, which arrived in Tehran on Saturday, is due to fly on to Iran’s second city Mashhad on Thursday, Kanani said.