The 2015 Mina stampede and the Saudi embassy attack in Tehran led to the general perception that there is no hope in the normalization of the long-strained relations between Tehran and Riyadh. However, the handshake between the two countries’ foreign ministers in Turkey changed everything. While Iran’s Zarif has called the handshake “common diplomatic courtesy”, there are other positive updates including the reports about Iranian pilgrims’ convenient travel to Mecca, an early meeting of Iranian and Saudi hajj delegations, and positive remarks by Saudi officials. A new chapter in bilateral ties has become possible because of the Rouhani administration’s self-control vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia. On Saturday, Kuwaiti newspaper al-Jarida quoted an informed Iranian official saying a Saudi delegation would soon visit Iran to evaluate damage on Saudi embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad.
Hopes for détente
According to Gulf News, a diplomatic delegation from Saudi Arabia is going to visit Iran to evaluate the amount of damage inflicted on Saudi diplomatic sites in Tehran and Mashhad. “According to the source, the Saudi evaluation team intended to visit Iran two months ago, but the visit was delayed due to difference regarding the delegation’s plan and likely meetings with Iranian officials,” the Emirati outlet quoted Al-Jarida.
Saudi Arabia has informed Tehran of its dissatisfaction with the slow process of visa issuance for the delegation, the report said. “The Saudi delegation asked to meet judiciary officials involved in the legal proceeding regarding the embassy and consulate attacks in Tehran and Mashhad but Iran’s Foreign Ministry has announced it is not within its powers to plan the meetings,” the source has told Al-Jarida. Gulf News claimed Saudi officials were not convinced by Iranian Foreign Ministry’s explanations. According to the source, tensions between the two countries have alleviated following this year’s haj, amid preparations and coordination between Iranian and Saudi diplomats and haj officials. The Iranian side has repeatedly sent Tehran reports about Saudis’ positive stance during the talks. The news outlet has reported that an Iranian delegation is supposed to reciprocate the visit by the Saudi evaluation team, renewing hopes for détente and a new chapter in the two countries’ ties. Gulf News concluded the report in the words of the Iranian source who said Tehran seeks the settlement of disputes and resumption of diplomatic ties. From the Iranians’ point of view, the Saudis’ visit is a sign for their interest in reopening the path of diplomatic relations.
Brothers by religion
According to the report, recent reactions by Saudi officials and media outlets indicate real fresh hopes about the tumultuous relations between Riyadh and Tehran, which mean a new chapter of developments not only for the two countries but also for the region. However, it remains to be seen how stable Saudi stance regarding Iran will be in the future, as it is likely that Riyadh shift its policy under US and Israeli influence. The governor of Mecca Khalid bin Faisal Al Saud has reportedly told a recent press conference on haj Iranians are religious brothers of Saudi Arabia, according to Sputnik. “I hope Iranian hajis remember us in a good spirit upon their return home,” he added. Following tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia in 2015 and the Mina stampede, many skirmished took place between the sides over the security of Iranian hajis. The governor reiterated that Saudi Arabia appreciates and welcomes the entry of ‘Iranian brothers’ to the holy land.