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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Tehran says Iran and Saudi Arabia will soon exchange diplomatic visits

It would be the first exchange of diplomats between the two countries since they cut ties in January 2016

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad  Zarif faces a tough challenge when he meets US secretary of state Rex Tillerson for the first - persuading the US to stick with the nuclear deal. Ozan Kose / AFP
Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Zarif faces a tough challenge when he meets US secretary of state Rex Tillerson for the first - persuading the US to stick with the nuclear deal. Ozan Kose / AFP

Iran and Saudi Arabia will soon exchange diplomatic visits, Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says, in a possible sign of tensions easing after the two countries cut ties last year.

It would be the first exchange of diplomats between the two countries since they cut ties in January 2016, after protesters stormed Saudi diplomatic posts in Iran in response to the kingdom's execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.

Speaking to the Iranian Students' News Agency (Isna), Mr Zarif also said Tehran was ready for dialogue with Riyadh to resolve regional crises.

Mr Zarif told Isna the diplomatic visits between Iran and Saudi Arabia would take place after this year's Hajj, which is due to start at the beginning of next month.

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"Visas have been delivered for the two sides," he said. "The final steps need to be completed so our diplomats can go inspect our embassy and consulate in Saudi Arabia and for Saudi diplomats to come inspect their embassy and consulate."

The announcement came as Qatar said it was restoring full diplomatic ties with Iran after also pulling its ambassador from the country in early 2016, in an act of solidarity with Saudi Arabia. That decision disregarded the demand of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Arab nations locked in a regional dispute with Doha that it lessen its ties to Tehran.

There have been signs of a thaw in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran in recent months, including an agreement to allow Iranians to participate in this year's Hajj.

Iranians were unable to attend the annual pilgrimage last year after talks on security and logistics fell apart.

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