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Iran, Saudi Arabia set to resume new round of talks in Iraq

Iranian officials say talks with Riyadh counterparts will resume in Baghdad soon.
(L to R) French President Emmanuel Macron, Iraq's Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian arrive for a group picture after the meeting in Baghdad on August 28, 2021. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP) (Photo by LUDOVIC MARIN/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Iran will soon resume talks with regional rival Saudi Arabia, Iranian officials said, marking an expected fourth round of negotiations to be held in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said last night he spoke about resuming talks when he met Saudi counterpart Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud during a regional conference hosted by Baghdad on Saturday.

Amir-Abdollahian said the Saudi side agreed to resume talks after “the new government in Iran is situated.”

Tehran’s ambassador in Baghdad, Iraj Masjedi, affirmed the plan on Tuesday. Masjedi was quoted by state-run Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) as saying the next round of talks would occur after Iran’s new government takes office.

Iranian and Saudi officials have held quiet discussions in Baghdad under the auspices of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s government since April.

The talks have aimed at reducing tensions across the region as the two sides back opposing sides in various conflicts.

Riyadh finds itself unable to roll back Iran-backed Yemeni rebels’ gains amid Yemen’s civil war and flirting with restoring ties with the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad, also backed by Iran.

The talks were initially floated under the Iraqi premiership of Adel Abdul Mahdi but did not materialize until this year.

The negotiations could reduce hostilities in the region, potentially lessening the Gulf states’ reliance on US defense support and military presence, a development that could allow the Biden administration to prioritize its stated strategic focus on East Asia.

Tensions between the archrivals spiked under the previous US administration of former President Donald Trump.

Trump’s abandonment of the 2015 international nuclear accord with Iran and imposition of a “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions against Tehran were followed by a series of attacks on commercial shipping in the Gulf and strikes on Saudi Arabia.

The weapons used in the attacks have in some cases been assessed by US and UN experts to be of Iranian origin.

Meanwhile, Iran’s hostile rivalry with Israel shows little sign of abating. On Tuesday, an oil slick from a coastal Syrian refinery approached the coast of Cyprus.

Israel has reportedly conducted a series of sabotage attacks against Iranian petroleum shipments to Syria, causing significant spills in the Eastern Mediterranean. Iran has also attacked Israeli-linked shipping vessels in the Gulf region.

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