Saudi Arabia confirms recent talks with Iran | political news

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FM Prince Faisal says the fourth round of negotiations between the two arch-rivals in the Middle East took place on September 21.

Saudi Arabia held talks with regional rival Tehran last month, as talks to ease tensions under Iran’s conservative President Ebrahim Raisi continue.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said on Sunday that “the fourth round of talks took place on September 21”.

“These discussions are still at the exploratory stage and we hope they lay the groundwork to address issues between the two sides,” he said in Riyadh during a joint press conference with European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

Prince Faisal did not disclose the location of the meeting or the level of representation, while Borrell welcomed talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Iran and Saudi Arabia, which face each other in multiple conflicts in the Middle East, have been in talks since April at their highest level since severing ties in 2016.

Talks were launched under Iran’s former president Hassan Rouhani, who was replaced by Raisi in August. The first three rounds of Saudi-Iranian talks were held in Iraq.

The talks have led to “serious progress” on security in the Gulf, Saeed Khatibzadeh, the spokesman for Tehran’s foreign ministry, said on Sept. 23.

Opposing sides

Saudi Arabia and Iran have supported opposing sides in regional conflicts and political disputes in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq for years, and Riyadh has led an Arab coalition since 2015 waging war against the Iran-affiliated Houthi movement in Yemen.

Riyadh and Tehran have said they hope the talks can ease tensions while downplaying expectations of a major diplomatic breakthrough.

Borrell said he raised the situation in Yemen during his visit to Riyadh, where he will also meet Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

“What is happening in Yemen is a terrible tragedy for the people there and it also affects the entire region,” Borrell said.

Saudi Arabia intervened in the war in Yemen on behalf of the internationally recognized government in 2015, shortly after the Houthi rebels captured the capital Sanaa.

The fighters have repeatedly attacked the kingdom in cross-border attacks.

Yemen’s protracted conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced millions, leading to what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

As the UN pushes for an end to the war, the Houthis have demanded the reopening of Sanaa airport, which has been closed under a Saudi blockade since 2016, before a ceasefire or negotiations.

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