Iran welcomes Saudi invitation to Islamic bloc meeting
TEHRAN // Saudi Arabia has invited Iran to attend a meeting of Islamic bloc foreign ministers in Jeddah next month, said an Iranian official on Thursday.
Iranian deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian welcomed the “friendly” gesture by its regional rival, with which relations have been strained since the Syrian conflict and the fallout from unrest in Bahrain.
The two-day meeting of foreign ministers of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation opens in Jeddah on June 18.
An exchange of visits by Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud Al Faisal and his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif was high on Tehran’s agenda, the official told the Etemad newspaper.
Earlier this month, Prince Saud said Mr Zarif had been invited to visit the kingdom to improve bilateral relations after three years of enmity over the war in Syria – Iran backs the Damascus government while Saudi Arabia supports anti-regime rebels.
“We will talk with them in the hope that if there are any differences, they will be settled to the satisfaction of both countries,” he said in Riyadh on May 13.
Shiite Muslim Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia have also been at odds over Bahrain, where the Sunni ruling family received Saudi military support to suppress Arab Spring-inspired protests among its Shiite-majority population in 2011.
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said after his election last June that he wanted to reach out to Gulf Arab governments as part of efforts to end his country’s international isolation.
Saudi Arabia and its neighbours have been deeply suspicious of Iran’s nuclear ambitions and wary of the talks under way between the major powers and Tehran aimed at striking a long-term compromise.
* Agenec France-Presse
Updated: May 29, 2014 04:00 AM