Washington welcomes news of face-to-face talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia

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The Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal Bin Farhan al-Saud speaks to the media in Berlin on February 21, 2020.

Thomas Trutschel | Photo library | Getty Images

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The U.S. welcomes the news of direct communications between long-standing rivals in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Iran, a Biden government official told CNBC on Monday at a time when tensions are in the air Region and the recently elected Iranian government did not hold back from expressing hostility towards the West.

“Our regional partners like the UAE are absolutely vital to us as partners in business, regional security and mutual cooperation,” said Jennifer Gavito, deputy deputy secretary for Iran and Iraq in the Middle East Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dan Murphy from CNBC in Dubai.

“We therefore welcome your contribution to regional stability. With regard to the announcement of direct talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran, we welcome this. We welcome all direct talks that will lead to more peace and stability in the region. “

The discussion took place at Dubai Expo, the golf city’s six-month mega-event that it hopes will boost tourism, investment and further raise its global profile. Gavito has been the most senior US official to date to attend the event.

The Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud confirmed at the weekend that the first talks between the kingdom and the new Iranian government have taken place, said the final round was on September 21st.

“These discussions are still in the exploratory phase. We hope that they will provide a basis for addressing unresolved issues between the two sides and we will endeavor and work to make this a reality,” he said during a press conference on Sunday .

Ebrahim Raisi, who took office as Iranian President this month, speaks during a press conference in Tehran, Iran, June 21, 2021.

Ebrahim Raisi | WANA News Agency | Reuters

Iran and Saudi Arabia support opposing sides in numerous regional disputes and violent conflicts, including those in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon. Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of attacking its oil infrastructure and providing missiles to the Houthi rebels in Yemen to attack the kingdom.

Riyadh and Tehran have not expressed any expectations of a major breakthrough, but both sides have spoken out in favor of easing tensions.

The diplomatic reach differs significantly from the current state of affairs between the US and Iran, although there was a brief return to negotiations on the nuclear deal with Iran in the first few months of the Biden presidency. The 2015 Obama-era nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, lifted sanctions against Iran to curtail its nuclear program.

But in the years since the Trump administration unilaterally pulled the US out of the deal and reinstated extensive sanctions against Iran, the deal has been essentially life support, crippling its economy.

In response, Iran has gradually reduced its compliance with the agreement, increasing uranium stocks and enrichment well above the parameters set out in the JCPOA and to levels that many in the international community have identified as alarming.

Tehran insists that its moves are within its sovereign rights and that they can be reversed if the US lift the sanctions. Meanwhile, the Biden government says it is ready to return to the negotiating table but will only lift sanctions if Iran first undoes its JCPOA violations.

Iran’s new President Ebrahim Raisi, a die-hard and vocal anti-Western clergyman, slammed the US during his first speech at the United Nations in September, calling Washington’s sanctions – especially during the pandemic – “crimes against humanity”.

On Saturday, the Iranian Foreign Minister said Washington had tried to discuss resuming nuclear negotiations the previous month, but that Tehran called on the US to release $ 10 billion of its frozen assets as a sign of goodwill. The US has not yet officially responded to Iran’s request.

“We have seen these reports and I am unable to talk about what specific sanction relief we can offer,” said Gavito. “However, the type and sequence of the sanctions easing take place within the negotiations themselves. So the ball really lies with Iran.”

“We are prepared through these negotiations, which we have conducted in good faith, to return to mutual compliance with the JCPOA,” she added. “We hope Iran does that too. We think it’s in their best interests. But here too the ball is really in their field.”


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