Iran, Saudi Arabia hold fifth round of talks in Baghdad

Both sides express hope talks could ease bilateral, regional tensions, but downplayed expectations of major breakthrough.

Tehran, Iran – Iran and Saudi Arabia have held a fifth round of direct talks in Baghdad, an outlet close to Iran’s security forces has confirmed.

Senior representatives of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) and Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief, Khalid bin Ali Al Humaidan, attended the talks, according to Nournews, affiliated with the SNSC, which did not mention the date of the meeting.

The outlet said the main challenges to re-establishing ties between the two countries were discussed in a “positive” atmosphere that “painted a brighter outlook” for the future of bilateral relations.

It added that the talks could also pave the way for a meeting of the two foreign ministers.

Tehran and Riyadh cut off diplomatic ties in 2016.

Both sides have so far expressed hope the talks could ease bilateral and regional tensions, but have downplayed expectations of a major breakthrough.

In addition to Iraq, which has hosted all rounds of direct talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia beginning in April 2021, Oman was also reported to have played a role in organising the latest session.

So far, the only actionable outcome of the direct talks appears to have been the reopening of Iran’s representative office at the Jeddah-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The news comes as Iran, last month, “temporarily suspended” talks with Saudi Arabia without citing any reasons.

It appeared that Saudi Arabia’s execution of 81 people in a single day, many of whom were minority Shia Muslims in the Sunni-majority kingdom, was the cause.

The break in diplomatic ties between the two regional powers six years ago came after crowds of people attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran in response to the execution of a prominent Shia religious leader.

The two also stand on opposing sides in the deadly war of more than seven years in Yemen, where Iran supports the Houthi movement and Saudi Arabia leads a coalition fighting on behalf of the internationally recognised Yemeni government.

A United Nations-brokered two-month truce is now in effect in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia has backed the formation of a new eight-member presidential council, which was inaugurated earlier this week.

Iran, meanwhile, has called for an end to the war and is holding talks between Yemeni stakeholders without foreign intervention.

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