News / Middle East

Saudi FM Says Invited Iranian Counterpart to Visit

FILE - Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal pauses as he makes a statement to the media in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 5, 2014.
FILE - Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal pauses as he makes a statement to the media in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Jan. 5, 2014.
Reuters
Saudi Arabia has invited Iran's foreign minister to visit, Riyadh said on Tuesday, hinting at the possibility of a thaw between the Gulf's two biggest, most bitter rivals, who are at loggerheads over Syria's civil war.
 
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has adopted a conciliatory tone towards Tehran's neighbors since taking office last year, but while Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has visited other Gulf Arab states, he has not yet been to Saudi Arabia.
 
Relations between Iran and most of its Gulf Arab neighbors have been improving since Tehran agreed preliminary limits on its nuclear activity last year, but ties with arch-rival Saudi Arabia remained chilly.
 
Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told a news conference that Zarif had been given an invitation to the kingdom but that despite Iran's past declarations of a wish to improve ties, the visit had not transpired. He did not say when Riyadh issued the invitation or if Iran had formally responded.
 
“Any time that (Zarif) sees fit to come, we are willing to receive him. Iran is a neighbor, we have relations with them and we will negotiate with them, we will talk with them,” he said.
 
Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite Iran back opposing sides in Arab political struggles including in Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria, where Tehran's ally President Bashar al-Assad faces an insurgency backed by Gulf Arabs.
 
Gulf states, like Western powers and Israel, fear Iran has been using its declared civilian nuclear energy program as a front to covertly develop an atomic bomb capability.
 
Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have also accused Iran of trying to meddle in their internal affairs by stirring up their Shi'ite communities to revolt. Iran says its nuclear program is peaceful and denies interference in these countries' affairs.
 
But since taking office in August, the moderate Rouhani has overseen a conciliatory shift in Iran's hitherto confrontational foreign relations. The most tangible result so far was Iran's Nov. 24 interim nuclear deal with global powers.
 
Saudi officials have remained suspicious, however, and have accused Iran of being “an occupying power” in Syria, where they describe Assad as carrying out genocide against the country's civilian population via air strikes in urban areas.
 
“Our hope is that Iran becomes part of the effort to make the region as safe and as prosperous as possible and not become part of the problem,” the Saudi foreign minister said.
 
Official visits rare
 
Visits by officials of each country to the other remain rare.
 
However, Rouhani's predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was regarded by Riyadh as a source of much of the tension between the countries, did meet Saudi King Abdullah at an Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit in Mecca in 2012.
 
Abdullah placed Ahmadinejad at his right hand side while receiving leaders of other Muslim countries in an apparently emollient gesture aimed at showing Saudi Arabia wanted to reduce tensions with Iran and sectarian divisions in the region.
 
After Ahmadinejad's foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, visited Riyadh in 2009 in an effort to lessen tensions, King Abdullah told U.S. officials he had warned the Iranians that “you as Persians have no business meddling in Arab matters”, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.
 
“Iran's goal is to cause problems... There is no doubt something unstable about them,” the Saudi monarch told visiting U.S. counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan, according to the cable.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More