Saudi Arabia-Iran: Khamenei’s office led talks and agreed to stop arming Houthis, say sources


The recent agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran to restore ties, which included a pledge to stop arming the Houthis, was brokered by the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an Iranian source close to the negotiations said. said Middle East Eye.

Few in the Middle East and beyond saw the deal coming when it was announced on March 10. Riyadh and Tehran have had no official ties since 2016, when the Saudis cut ties after their embassy in Iran was stormed by protesters angry over the execution of Nimr al-Nimr, a dissident Saudi Shia cleric.

The details of the new agreement have not yet been disclosed, but according to a joint statement issued by Iran, Saudi Arabia and China, which broke off the talks, they agreed to “respect the sovereignty of states and the non- into internal matters. affairs of states”.

(CD) Musaad bin Mohammed Al Aiban of Saudi Arabia, Wang Yi of China, and Ali Shamkhani of Iran meet in Beijing on March 10 (Reuters)

According to the Iranian source, the deal consists of 24 points and it started to be cooked when the President of Iran Ebrahim Raisi went to China on February 13.

“When President Raisi visited China recently, he conveyed the supreme leader’s message about talks with Saudi Arabia, after which the talks took a serious step,” the source said.

“Chinese officials, meanwhile, expressed their dissatisfaction with Iran’s foreign policy approach, saying they could no longer support Tehran if such a situation continued.”

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According to the source, the Chinese then invited Iran and Saudi Arabia to Beijing – not for negotiations, but to fully resolve their issues.

The source emphasized that the talks on the Iranian side were entirely in the hands of the supreme leader’s office, and Ali Shamkhani was also tasked with leading the negotiations as he is Khamenei’s representative in the Supreme National Security Council, and an Arab both ethnic. .

Another Iranian source also confirmed that President Raisi’s government did not handle the talks.

According to a third source from Iran, the talks between Iranian and Saudi officials in Iraq and Oman had reached a dead end, especially in the last few months.

The source added that Amir Saeid Iravani, former deputy head of the Ministry of Information and current ambassador to the UN, who is well known to the Saudis, was present at the talks with Shamkhani.

Resolving disagreements

Sources told MEE that the Saudi and Iranian representatives were keen to be clear about their intentions over the five days of discussions and that they wanted to finally resolve their differences.

“The Saudis said: ‘We are focused on our economic development and we do not want any conflict. We expect you to have nothing to do with Yemen and we will do the same about Iraq and Syria’,” recalled the first source.

The source added that the 24-point plan includes Iran ceasing military support for Yemen’s Houthi movement, a commitment previously reported in the Wall Street Journal by US and Saudi sources.

He also claimed that Saudi Arabia would stop supporting Iran International, a Persian television station that is highly critical of the Iranian authorities and has given extensive coverage of the recent anti-establishment protests in Iran.

Iran International denies being backed by Saudi Arabia, saying it is owned by Volant Media UK Ltd, a private limited company based in London. He says the shareholders are private individuals from different countries.

‘The Saudis said: “We are focused on our economic development and we do not need any conflict”‘

– An Iranian source close to the negotiations

In addition, the two sides agreed to allow the Iranians to perform Umrah and Hajj and Saudi pilgrims to visit the city of Mashhad, which houses the holy shrine of the eighth Shia imam.

The Saudis also denied any support for the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), an Iranian opposition organization previously listed as a terrorist group by the US and the UK, and vowed not to support it in the future.

The new deal is a significant development for both countries and the Middle East as a whole, and is expected to have far-reaching consequences. It reflects the growing foreign policy role now played by the supreme leader’s office and the Supreme National Security Council, whose decisions are always stamped by Khamenei.

In particular, Shamkhani visited Saudi Arabia the UAE on Thursday and met with key officials in Abu Dhabi. Accompanied by Emirati national security adviser Tahnoun bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Shamkhani described the trip as “a worthy start for the two countries entering a new phase of engagement”.

“To overcome the existing challenges, the continuation of which is not in the interest of any country in the region, cooperation and convergence should replace hostility and diversity,” Shamkhani said in his meeting with Tahnoun.

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