Iraq prepares bilateral talks between Saudi Arabia, Iran: PM

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani disclosed on 9 February that Baghdad is preparing to hold bilateral talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia to ensure regional and international stability.

Sudani made the announcement in the UAE, affirming that Iraq can establish serious talks between Tehran and Riyadh and adding that the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) agreed to start a dialogue with the Islamic Republic. The meeting is set to occur “soon,” with Sudani hoping that the potential security meetings will rise to a diplomatic level.

During an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Sudani affirmed that he has already agreed to develop a roadmap with MbS for bilateral relations between Tehran and Riyadh.

MbS reportedly pressured senior Iraqi officials to set up a face-to-face meeting between the top diplomats of Riyadh and Tehran. This was revealed by the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Fuad Hussein, on 30 January. 

In an interview with Rudaw TV a day prior, Hussein said that “Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Iran, will meet in Baghdad, at the request of Mohammed bin Salman. The event is still planned, and the time and date will be announced later.”

The Iraqi foreign minister added that the Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers would meet in public and that Iraq would act as a middleman to ensure that the details of the private conversations are made public.

In an effort to improve their bilateral relations, the two sides began negotiations in the spring of 2021 and held five rounds of talks in Baghdad. However, Tehran suspended the negotiations after Riyadh executed 81 people under the pretext of being involved in “terrorism,” the majority of which were Shia Muslims.

Relations have recently become tenser due to Saudi Arabia’s involvement in nationwide protests in Iran in late 2022, instigated by the death of Mahsa Amini. 

Iran’s Intelligence Minister Esmail Khatib was quoted by Iranian media as saying that Iran is running out of patience and will no longer tolerate intervention, hostility, and incitement in a direct message to Saudi Arabia.  

In November last year, Tehran warned Saudi Arabia via diplomatic channels that the Islamic Republic is aware of Riyadh’s connection to Iran International, a news outlet that has consistently misrepresented the Iranian authorities’ approach to the protests.