Iran ‘temporarily suspends’ direct talks with Saudi Arabia

Riyadh and Tehran previously said they hoped the talks could ease tensions but downplayed expectations of breakthroughs.

Tehran, Iran – Iran has “temporarily suspended” direct talks with Saudi Arabia, according to an outlet linked with the country’s top security body.

Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein announced on Saturday during a diplomatic forum in Turkey’s Antalya that a fifth round of talks between the two regional rivals will be hosted by Baghdad on Wednesday.

But Nournews, affiliated with Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), which has taken point on the talks with the kingdom, said on Sunday that Iran has unilaterally suspended the talks without citing the reason.

Iran’s foreign ministry had previously said on many occasions that the country is ready to resume the talks soon.

Riyadh and Tehran have said they hope the talks can ease tensions but have downplayed expectations of a significant breakthrough.

The two countries ended diplomatic ties in 2016 when Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran was stormed by protesters following the execution of a prominent Shia religious leader by the Sunni-majority kingdom.

Riyadh supported then-United States President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign of harsh sanctions on Iran after his unilateral withdrawal from the country’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. It also blamed Iran for a major attack on its oil facilities in 2019, an allegation Tehran denied.

The two countries also stand on opposite sides in the war in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement since 2014.

But the first round of secret talks, which was held in Iraq’s capital in April 2020, signalled a potential thaw. The talks were officially confirmed only months later.

The talks came as Iran and world powers again sat down in Vienna in an effort to restore the nuclear deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). After more than 11 months, the negotiations in the Austrian capital are now thought to be nearing the finish line.

Earlier this year, Iran said three of its diplomats were accepted into Saudi Arabia after several years to once more set up a representative office at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Jeddah.

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