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US, France cautiously welcome renewal of Iran-Saudi diplomatic relations

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U.S. and French leaders reacted with cautious optimism to news that Iran and Saudi Arabia unexpectedly announced on Friday that they had agreed to restore ties and reopen diplomatic missions brokered by China.

The White House welcomed the deal but said it remained to be seen whether the Iranians would “fulfil their obligations”.

France also saluted the move, saying it favored dialogue but urging Iran to “renounce its destabilizing actions”.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the announcement and said he stood ready “to use his good offices to further the regional dialogue”.

“A good-neighborly relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia is crucial to the stability of the Gulf region,” he said through a spokesman.

Friday’s announcement followed five days of unannounced talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Beijing and rounds of talks in Iraq and Oman.

In a tripartite statement, Shiite-majority Iran and mostly Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia said they would take back their embassies and missions within two months and implement security and economic agreements signed more than 20 years ago. cooperation agreement.

>> Iran, Saudi Arabia agree to rebuild ties after years of tension

Riyadh severed ties in 2016 after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions after Saudi Arabia executed revered Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr This is just one of a series of flashpoints between the two longtime rivals.

‘New Horizons’

The détente between Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, and Iran threatens to reshape relations in a region that has been turbulent for decades. Iran is an outcast of Western governments over its nuclear activities.

Iran and Saudi Arabia back rival sides in several conflict zones, including Yemen, where Houthi rebels are backed by Tehran and Riyadh leads a pro-government military coalition. The two countries also compete for influence in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.

The head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militant group, called the agreement a “good development”.

“This could open up new horizons in the region,” said Hassan Nasrallah, who has been blacklisted by Saudi Arabia as a “terrorist” group since 2016.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates Nahyan The agreement was welcomed on Saturday as an “important step towards stability and prosperity” in the region.

“Foreign policy failure”

In Israel, the deal has prompted sharp criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has made clear his focus is on getting Saudi Arabia into a regional coalition against Iran.

Israeli opposition leader Yar Lapid said it represented “a complete failure and danger for the foreign policy of the Israeli government”.

However, regional observers warn that the actual impact of the agreement is far from clear – whether in terms of future Saudi-Iran cooperation or Israel’s relationship with Riyadh.

Saudi analyst Aziz Alghashian said it was always “superficial” that Saudi Arabia was only interested in Israel as part of a potential front against Iran.

With Friday’s news, “you clearly see that Saudi Arabia is prioritizing reconciliation with Iran over public reconciliation with Israel,” he added.

But “that doesn’t mean the very quiet relationship with Israel is going to stop (…) Now the relationship with Iran is a variable, part of the calculation.”

Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, has long said its recognition of Israel depends on a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

Umar Karim, an expert on Saudi politics at the University of Birmingham, said there was a surge in Israeli-Palestinian violence this year and public progress was unlikely in the short term.

“The Saudis now have no incentive to quickly normalize with Israel,” he said.

(AFP and Reuters)

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