Saudi Arabia, Iran to reopen embassies ‘within days’

BEIRUT (Reuters): Saudi Arabia and Iran will reopen embassies in each other’s capitals “within days,” Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on Friday in a sign of warming relations after the two countries closed their missions seven years ago.

Speaking at a news conference in the Lebanese capital Beirut, Amirabdollahian did not give specific dates for the reopening of the embassies, which closed in 2016.

“During the last phone call between the foreign ministers of Iran and Saudi Arabia on Eidul-Fitr, we agreed to work in the next coming days on the reopening of the Iranian and Saudi embassies in Tehran and Riyadh,” Amirabdollahian said, according to an official Arabic translation.

The regional rivals agreed last month to restore diplomatic relations under a deal brokered by China.

Their relationship started deteriorating in 2015 following the intervention of Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the Yemen war, after the Iran-aligned Houthi movement toppled the Saudi-backed government and seized control of the capital Sanaa.

Amirabdollahian was speaking at the end of his visit to Lebanon where he met with Lebanese officials including Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah.

The Iranian foreign minister confirmed President Ebrahim Raisi would visit Syria in “the near future” without providing details.

The visit would be the first by an Iranian president to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since war broke out in Syria in 2011. With military help and economic support from both Iran and Russia, Assad was able to turn the tide of the conflict and regain control of most of his country.

In Israel, National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi sought to cast Iran’s diplomatic outreach as a response to what he described as its failure to contend with Israeli military strikes on its assets in Syria and elsewhere.