Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has announced plans for a fresh round of reconciliation talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia, saying Baghdad is preparing the ground for a “high-level” meeting between the two countries’ officials.
“We are working on a high-level meeting between the two countries in Baghdad, and the two parties are ready to join the advanced the stages of negotiations. We are preparing the ground and the atmosphere in Iraq to host the next round,” said Kadhimi Kadhimi in an interview with French daily Le Figaro published on Monday.
The Iraqi premier did not provide any date for such a meeting.
Baghdad has so far hosted five rounds of negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia in an effort to help the two Persian Gulf neighbors mend fences and restore diplomatic relations.
When asked whether he was optimistic about the prospect of Tehran-Riyadh talks, Kadhimi said, “The past rounds created important elements of trust between the two parties.”
The two sides, he added, crossed major stages and took important steps, and “discovered that they have many commonalities, and that they must build on these commonalities and negotiate contentious matters.”
“We hope that they will reach a final agreement and that the restoration of relations will be officially announced in the near future,” Kadhimi added.
In an interview with Iraq’s Rudaw television last Tuesday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein said Baghdad was working with Tehran and Riyadh to help boost the representation of the two sides in the talks from security and intelligence levels to the foreign ministerial level.
Hussein said Iraq continued to mediate the process of negotiations which is aimed at fixing the troubled ties between the two Persian Gulf neighbors.
Hussein announced in July that Tehran and Riyadh had agreed to hold the first “public” meeting in years at the level of foreign ministers in Baghdad. However, the top Iraqi diplomat later said additional details and points of discussions for the meeting were unavailable.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian appreciated at that time the “constructive” role of Iraq in advancing regional dialog and said there has been “progress” in the last five rounds of talks with Saudi Arabia.
Amir-Abdollahian said he had told Iraqi mediators that Tehran was ready for a new political and security phase with Riyadh, expressing hope that the measure would “eventually lead to the return of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran relations to normal.”
Pertinently, Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, had announced that his country intended to establish close and friendly relationship with Iran since representatives from both states had held several rounds of talks in the Iraqi capital.
Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 after Iranian protesters, enraged by the Saudi execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, stormed its embassy in Tehran.
The kingdom then pursued a confrontational foreign policy toward the Islamic Republic, especially during the administration of former US president Donald Trump, with whom the Saudi rulers shared close ties.
Saudi Arabia appears to have recently changed course, showing willingness through diplomatic channels and third parties to mend fences with Tehran and resume bilateral relations.
The two neighbors remain deeply divided over a set of regional issues, mainly the destructive Saudi-led war on Yemen.