Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian convened in Jeddah on Friday for an unprecedented high-level dialogue, marking a significant milestone in their nations’ history. This meeting comes as a culmination of efforts to bridge the divide that had once plunged the region into turmoil due to years of bitter rivalry.
The unanticipated nature of this encounter, following Amirabdollahian’s recent arrival in the kingdom, underscores the urgency and sincerity behind these discussions. Just a day prior, Amirabdollahian had expressed optimism about the trajectory of bilateral ties, following his productive talks with Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan.
At the heart of these talks lies Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s strategic vision for Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy. Commonly referred to as MbS, he has spearheaded a recalibration of the kingdom’s approach on the global stage, signaling a departure from its historically close ties with the United States.
Both sides have hailed the current meeting as a resounding success. Iran’s Press TV reported the Iranian delegation’s satisfaction, characterizing the interaction as “very good.” Echoing this sentiment, Saudi Arabia’s state news agency SPA indicated that the discussions encompassed a wide array of international and regional developments.
The history of enmity between Iran’s revolutionary, Shi’ite Muslim leadership and Saudi Arabia’s Sunni ruling family has been a dominant narrative in Middle Eastern affairs. Their fierce competition for influence has reverberated across various theaters, from the battlefields of Iraq and Syria to the political landscapes of Lebanon, Yemen, and Bahrain.
However, a remarkable turning point was ushered in by China in March when it facilitated a reconciliatory process, culminating in the reestablishment of full diplomatic relations. This marked a stark departure from the tensions that had led Saudi Arabia to sever its ties with Iran in 2016, following an attack on its Tehran embassy in the aftermath of the execution of a prominent Shi’ite cleric.
The Saudi-Iranian rapprochement gained further momentum in June when Prince Faisal made a significant move by visiting Tehran. During his visit, he expressed hope that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi would reciprocate by visiting Saudi Arabia at an opportune juncture.