DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Tuesday progress had been made in talks with Iran but “not enough” and that the kingdom’s hands remained outstretched towards Tehran.
Sunni power Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran, which are locked in proxy conflicts across the Middle East, held five rounds of talks hosted by Baghdad.
“We have made some progress but not enough,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud told a World Economic Forum panel. “Our hands are outstretched.”
“We continue to encourage our Iranian neighbors to look into what can be a very, very significant sea change in our region,” he said, adding that a “new era of cooperation” in the country could benefit everyone.
Saudi Arabia and Iran, which severed ties in 2016, launched direct talks last year as world powers tried to salvage a 2015 nuclear pact with Iran, which Gulf Arab states considered flawed for not responding to regional security concerns.
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Nuclear talks have been suspended since March.
Prince Faisal said that if a deal is reached, it would be “potentially a good thing if it’s a good deal” and reiterated Riyadh’s position that Tehran’s regional activities should be addressed.
Asked if Riyadh was happy with the elections in Lebanon in which the Iranian-backed Hezbollah and its allies lost their parliamentary majority, the prince replied: “It may be a positive step, but it is too early to tell.”
He said that would depend on whether there would be real political reform “that reimposes the authority of the state” and fights corruption as well as real economic reform.
Lebanon’s ties with Saudi Arabia, a former major donor to Beirut, have been damaged by what the Saudi foreign minister has described as Hezbollah’s growing influence in the country.
(Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli and Ghaida Ghantous in Dubai; Editing by Catherine Evans and Nick Zieminski)
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