The recent announcement of the resumption of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran has elicited mixed reactions from various regional and international countries. While many countries have welcomed the move, others remain concerned. The agreement was signed on March 10th in Beijing, as China played a vital role in bringing the two sides together.
The statement released by the official Saudi and Iranian press agencies announced the reopening of their respective embassies within two months. The report also emphasized the activation of the previous security cooperation agreement signed in 2001. It confirmed both sides' “affirmation of respect for the sovereignty of states and non-interference in internal affairs,” according to the statement.
On his part, the Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, confirmed that the agreement between his country and Iran is based on respecting the sovereignty of states and not interfering in their affairs. He added that they look forward to the deal with Iran enhancing the security and stability of the Arab Gulf region.
This event came during Saudi Arabia's speech at the Foreign Ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation meeting, which the official Saudi News Channel, Al-Ikhbariya, broadcasted.
In the same speech, Farhan mentioned that his country is in dialogue, and as a result, “they have held talks for over two years with their brothers in Iran in Baghdad, Muscat, and Beijing.”
In addition, he affirmed Saudi Arabia's support for peace in Yemen and the international efforts to reach a complete and permanent ceasefire and begin the political process between the Yemeni government and the Houthis.
In Tehran, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, stated that the rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia would “provide great capacities to the two countries, the region, and the Islamic world.”
“The neighborhood policy, as the critical axis of the foreign policy of the 13th Iranian government, is firmly moving in the right direction, he said, adding that Iran's diplomatic apparatus is actively seeking more regional steps.” Abdollahian continued.
Additionally, Ali Reza Enayati, the Assistant of Iranian Foreign, believed that the announced agreement in Beijing to resume relations between Tehran and Riyadh would “pave the way for cooperation between the two countries and contribute to the region's development.”
This came in an interview conducted by the Islamic Republic News Agency. Enayati expressed his hope that this agreement would “lead to the continuation of existing ties based on the principle of good neighborliness and sustainable development between Iran and Saudi Arabia.”
He also pointed to the role of Iraq and Oman in the context of achieving the agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, emphasizing that the talks in Beijing came after two years of negotiations in Baghdad and Muscat, which “paved the necessary ground for reaching the mentioned agreement.”
As for China, Wang Yi, director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, described the decision to resume Iranian-Saudi relations as "a victory for dialogue and peace" at the close of the dialogue.
“First, the world is faced with not only the Ukraine issue. Many other matters affecting peace and people's livelihood call for international attention and should be appropriately and promptly handled by the parties concerned.
Second, no matter how complex the issues are or how thorny the challenges may be, equal-footed dialogue based on mutual respect will lead to a mutually acceptable solution.” Wang Yi commented on the agreement.
Moreover, He emphasized that the two countries shared understanding led to the agreement and that China will “continue to play a constructive role in facilitating the proper settlement of hot-spot issues around the world.” He described his country as “a good-faith and reliable mediator” He considered the Beijing dialogue “a robust and successful effort to put the Global Security Initiative into practice.”
Massive Arab Welcome to the Agreement
Most Arab countries, especially those in the Gulf and the Middle East, praised the resumption of relations and dialogue between Iran and Saudi Arabia, considering it an essential step in the interest of all countries in the region.
The Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Jassim Mohammed Al-Budaiwi, welcomed the trilateral agreement and expressed "the support of the Gulf Cooperation Council for what was stated in the joint statement and its welcoming of all steps that contribute to enhancing security and peace in the region, supporting its stability and the prosperity of its peoples."
Likewise, the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, expressed Qatar's welcome to the issuance of the joint statement during a phone call with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan.
He also expressed Qatar's hope that this step would contribute to "enhancing security and stability in the region, and meeting the aspirations of the peoples of both countries, in a way that benefits all the peoples of the region."
Furthermore, the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, visited Abu Dhabi six days after the agreement and met with the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. According to the Islamic Republic News Agency, they discussed bilateral issues and significant regional and international developments.
Shamkhani considered the growing cooperation and the role of the UAE's President noteworthy during his six-day visit to Abu Dhabi following the agreement. He added that Tehran and Abu Dhabi could take significant steps in developing bilateral cooperation and enhancing neighborhood diplomacy, highlighting the "historical relations, cultural and religious commonalities" between Iran and the UAE. He emphasized the necessity of expanding and deepening these bonds in all fields.
Moreover, he considered that most of the current problems result from foreign interventions and the demonic practices of the “United States and the Zionist entity in the Persian Gulf region.” He added that the region's growing capabilities are a hope that can be achieved, and it is necessary for all countries in the region to join forces toward that end.
In Lebanon, the Lebanese Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Abdullah Bouhabib, welcomed on an official level the tripartite statement and added that an agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran would positively impact the overall regional relations in the future.
In the same context, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, an ally of Iran, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, welcomed the agreement and in a speech, 'If the Saudi-Iranian agreement proceeds naturally, it will open up prospects throughout the region, including Lebanon.” He also confirmed that rapprochement is good and will not be at the expense of the region's people but instead in their interest.
Furthermore, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Djibouti, Libya, Kuwait, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas in Gaza, the Houthis in Yemen, Iraq, and Oman also welcomed the agreement and emphasized its importance for the region as a whole.
International Welcome with American Skepticism
Despite the widespread discussion about the rise of the Chinese model and its potential future competition with the American model, and despite the influence of the United States in the Middle East, where it had the most significant say, official American statements have welcomed the agreement but with caution.
"We support any efforts to de-escalate tensions there and in the region. We think it's in our interests, which we worked on through our own effective combination of deterrence and diplomacy," White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
Kirby claimed that Saudis kept the US informed of its talks with Iran, but Washington wasn't directly involved. He also considered that the agreement in Beijing resulted from several rounds of talks, including in Iraq and Oman, and that the United States supported this process, especially as it could lead to an end to the Yemeni war.
Additionally, he emphasized that the United States will wait and see if Iran will fulfill its commitments after signing the agreement with Saudi Arabia, expressing doubts about Tehran's respect for its obligations. Also, he claimed that Iran came to the negotiating table due to "external pressures" and domestic dissatisfaction and added, "We certainly continue to monitor China as it seeks to gain influence and establish a foothold elsewhere in the world for its narrow interests."
However, he ultimately reaffirmed his country's welcome of the agreement "if the sustainability of this agreement is possible," regardless of the motive or mediator.
Similarly, France issued a similar stance, as it welcomed the agreement, but urged Iran to renounce its destabilizing actions, according to France 24.
On the Russian side, Moscow welcomed the tripartite agreement stressing that it welcomes any steps by Iran and Saudi Arabia to ease regional tensions.
"We welcome any steps that can and will help reduce tensions and reinvigorate dialogue in the region, in a very unstable region, especially when it comes to such key regional players as Saudi Arabia and Iran." Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated.
Moreover, Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov congratulated Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China on reaching an agreement. He claimed that Russia contributed to the political process and dialogue between Riyadh and Tehran and other countries such as Oman and Iraq.
He added that the return of relations aligns with Russian initiatives to create a security system in the Gulf region, which is of exceptional importance to the global economy.
"Good neighborly relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia are essential for the stability of the Gulf region," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who welcomed the reached agreement and expressed appreciation to China for hosting the talks between Iran and Saudi. He also reiterated his readiness to use his good offices to further advance regional dialogue, according to the same statement.
On the same basis, the Turkish Foreign Minister welcomed the restoration of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia and stated that it would “contribute significantly to laying the foundations for security in the region.”
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry "warmly welcomed the normalization of diplomatic relations" and added, "we firmly believe that this important diplomatic breakthrough will contribute to peace and stability in the region and beyond."
Agreement with Iran worries Israel.
The reaction of Israeli officials and the coverage of the Israeli media in response to the announcement of a Saudi-Iranian agreement indicated that Israel was highly concerned and affected by the restoration of Saudi-Iranian relations.
The agreement was announced amidst a problematic internal situation and sharp division in Israel. While Israel looks forward to normalizing relations with Riyadh, the agreement between Tehran and Riyadh may complicate this process.
And indeed, the effects of the sharp division emerged through the exchange of accusations about who bears responsibility for this agreement, as the leader of the Israeli opposition, Yair Lapid, described the restoration of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran as “an utter and dangerous failure of the Israeli government's foreign policy,” currently led by Benjamin Netanyahu.
“This is what happens when you are focused on the judicial madness instead of doing the work against Iran and strengthening ties with the U.S.,” Lapid said, according to The Times of Israel.
In the same context, former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett criticized the resumption of Saudi-Iranian relations and blamed the Netanyahu government.
“The restoration of relations between the Saudis and Iran is a serious and dangerous development for Israel, representing an Iranian diplomatic victory. It represents a critical blow to building a regional coalition against Iran.
“This is a resounding failure of the Netanyahu government and is the result of diplomatic neglect, general weakness, and internal conflict in the country,” Bennett tweeted after the resumption was announced.
Moreover, Yuli Edelstein, the head of the Foreign and Security Affairs Committee in the Israeli Knesset, considers the Saudi agreement with Iran “very bad for Israel and the entire free world'."
“The world does not stop while we are focused on power struggles and head-butting, especially not the worst of our enemies,” said Edelstein, voicing veiled criticism although he is a veteran MK in Netanyahu’s Likud party, The Times of Israel reported.
Furthermore, Former Defense Minister Benny Gantz described the renewal of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran as a worrying development and blamed Netanyahu for it.
“As someone who was a partner for many years in the construction and maintenance of the moderate alliance - I state that the security of Israel and its citizens have been abandoned by Netanyahu, and these are the results.” Gantz tweeted.
The same concern was expressed by Carmela Menashe, a military analyst, where she said: "I think that Israel is very worried about this. And I ask, where was the intelligence, did they know, because we didn't know about it," according to Al Mayadeen channel.
On the other hand, Netanyahu tried to blame and attribute the Iranian-Israeli rapprochement to the previous Israeli government and the common weakness of the Biden administration. 'There was a feeling of American and Israeli weakness, so Saudi Arabia turned to other channels,' said a senior Israeli official, briefing reporters traveling with Netanyahu in Italy.
This narrative is propagated by Netanyahu supporters, who blame the previous government led by Naftali Bennett, claiming that the talks between Riyadh and Tehran began during the administration of Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett. However, the negotiations between began Riyadh and Tehran began in April of that year when Netanyahu was still prime minister, The Times of Israel stated.
The senior Israeli official traveling with Netanyahu to Rome also stated that the process of normalizing and opening relations with Saudi Arabia would not be affected by the agreement, emphasizing Israel's efforts to establish diplomatic ties with Riyadh.
"Indeed, on Thursday, March 9th, both the American newspapers, "New York Times" and "Wall Street Journal," published Saudi's conditions for normalizing its relations with Israel as part of ongoing discussions between Saudi Arabia and the United States regarding the compensation requested by Riyadh in exchange for normalizing its relations with Israel, within the framework of expanding the scope of what is known as the "Abraham Accords" of 2020, one day before the agreement was expected to be signed in China."
“The Saudi crown prince is seeking a civilian nuclear program and security assurances from President Biden, a steep price for an agreement long sought by Israel.” according to The New York Times.
However, The Wall Street Journal predicted that Saudi demands could be an obstacle to completing the agreement, as Saudi Arabia had a U.S. security guarantee in addition to developing its civilian nuclear program.
In this regard, it is important to note that normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia was one of the most essential things Netanyahu was working for and promising to Israelis.
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