Iran and Saudi Arabia want to restore diplomatic relations after years of conflict. As a first step, the foreign ministers of the rival countries want to meet, as the state news agencies of both countries, IRNA and SPA, reported on Friday. Accordingly, high-ranking government officials in China signed a corresponding agreement.
Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia-majority Iran have not maintained diplomatic relations in recent years. Both countries are struggling for political and military influence in the region.
Riyadh cut official ties with Tehran in January 2016 in response to an attack by Iranian protesters on the Saudi embassy in Iran. The protests were triggered by the execution of prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia. In recent years, the two states have also fought out their rivalry in military conflicts in the region, for example in Yemen.
Over the past year, both sides have cautiously approached each other at the diplomatic level. Several rounds of talks were held in Iraq with Iranian and Saudi officials, mostly focused on security issues. Iran's influential politician Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Security Council, was reportedly back in Baghdad for talks in the past few days. In addition to Iraq, Oman had also played a role as a mediator.