Iran optimistic it can improve ties with Saudi Arabia: envoy

 Iranian ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad Fathali listens to Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah in Beirut's southern suburbs, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015.


Iranian ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad Fathali listens to Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah in Beirut’s southern suburbs, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015.

BEIRUT: Iran is optimistic it can improve relations with regional foe Saudi Arabia, Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon Mohammad Fathali said Wednesday, adding that the two countries have common enemies in Israel and ISIS.

“We seek to establish the best brotherly relations with Saudi Arabia, based on the principle of mutual respect,” Fathali told a radio station.

“We see positive indications on the horizon for Iranian-Saudi relations,” he added.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s participation in last month’s funeral services for Saudi King Abdullah was just one gesture of goodwill, the diplomat explained.

The move was reciprocated Tuesday by Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Awad Asiri, who participated in a ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the Iranian Revolution. The Iranian ambassador described relations with his Saudi counterpart as “very good.”

“Saudi Arabia and Iran have common enemies like ISIS and Israel,” Fathali said. “The Saudi elites have reached this conviction.”

Fathali said Iran’s relations with Turkey have also improved.

“Turkish-Iranian relations are very good and [the value of] economic trade has reached $20 billion,” he added.

“There will be an official visit for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan [soon].”

A fierce opponent of the West – especially the United States – Iran has long been a regional rival of Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Both countries are U.S. allies.

Discord between the nations was exacerbated by the eruption of the Syrian civil war, as Iran supported Syrian President Bashar Assad and his regime, while Turkey and Saudi Arabia backed rebel groups.

Asiri took part in a ceremony organized by the Iranian Embassy at the Beirut International Exhibition and Leisure Center to celebrate the 36th anniversary of the victory of the Iranian Revolution.

During the event, the Saudi diplomat was seen shaking hands with Sheikh Naim Qassem, the deputy-head of Hezbollah, Iran’s major ally in Lebanon.

Delivering a speech during the ceremony, Fathali said that Iran stood by the side of Lebanon’s “people, government, Army, and resistance.”

“Lebanon’s national unity is the mightiest weapon to confront the Zionist enemy and all the other dangers surrounding [the country],” the envoy added.

Fathali said Iran supported any dialogue which brought Lebanese political factions together, referring to ongoing talks between Hezbollah and the Future Movement.

He also said he hoped that all Lebanese factions, particularly Christian groups, would agree on a new president as soon as possible.

Lebanon has been without a president since last May.

By The Daily Star