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Iran Reopens Embassy, Consulate in Saudi Arabia

By Nigar Bayramli June 8, 2023

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Alireza Bigdeli, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Consular Affairs, Saudi Ali al-Youssef, Director of Consular Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Hassan Zarnegar, Charge of consular affairs in the Iranian embassy, attend a ceremony for the reopening of the Iranian Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, June 6, 2023. / Ahmed Yosri / Reuters

Iran reopened its embassy in Riyadh along with consulate general and office to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Jeddah on June 6 and 7, following an agreement to restore diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia after seven years.

"We consider today an important day in the relations of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Consular, Parliamentary and Expatriate Affairs Alireza Bigdeli said in a flag-raising ceremony at the embassy in Riyadh on June 6, according to Taghrib News Agency.

On June 7, Iran officially reopened its consulate in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah, which was closed in 2016. The ceremony, which was attended by a number of Iranian and Saudi officials, saw the Iranian flag being hoisted above the facility as the Iranian national anthem was played.

A separate ceremony, also held in Jeddah where the OIC is headquartered, featured the reopening of the Islamic Republic's Permanent Representative Office at the intergovernmental organization.

The reopening of the embassy takes place in the wake of a Chinese-brokered trilateral agreement between the two regional arch-rivals, which was announced on March 10. The two countries emphasized “respect for sovereignty and non-interference in each other’s internal affairs” in accordance with a previous security cooperation agreement signed in April 2001. This agreement was mentioned in the trilateral statement signed between officials of Iran, Saudi Arabia and China.

In a joint statement signed by Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and his Saudi counterpart Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud in Beijing on April 6, the two countries agreed to resume flights and bilateral visits after seven years.

Iran has appointed its new ambassador, Alireza Enayati, to Saudi Arabia. He previously served as Iran’s ambassador to Kuwait and was tasked with supervising the work of the Iranian delegation responsible for reopening Iran’s missions in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran in January 2016 after its embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad were attacked by protesters angered by the execution of top Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in the Sunni-majority kingdom. Saudi Arabia then asked Iranian diplomats to leave the country within 48 hours and evacuated its embassy staff from Tehran.

Iran supports the Lebanese Hezbollah group and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, against whom Saudi Arabia has led a military campaign since March 2015. Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of arming the Houthis, who have carried out missile and drone attacks on Saudi cities and oil facilities.

Saudi Arabia blamed Iran for a 2019 missile and drone assault on its oil plants, a charge that Tehran denies. The two countries have been locked in a rivalry for decades, backing allies engaged in proxy wars across the region.