Saudi Arabia Seeks Iraq’s Mediation to Mend Ties with Tehran

Saudi Arabia Seeks Iraq’s Mediation to Mend Ties with Tehran

The government of Saudi Arabia has called for Iraq’s mediation to mend ties between Riyadh and Tehran, Iraqi Interior Minister Qasim al-Araji said on Sunday (August 13).

Araji said during a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart that he held talks with Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

Mohammed bin Salman has asked Iraq to play a role in mediation to ease “tensions” between Riyadh and Tehran, Iranian news agency ISNA said, quoting Araji.

“During our visit to Saudi Arabia they also asked us to do so, and we said that to [the] Iranian side. The Iranian side looked at this demand positively,” Araji said, as quoted by the Iraqi satellite channel Alghadeer.

Riyadh severed diplomatic relations last year after Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran following the execution of a Shia cleric in Saudi Arabia in January 2016.

In February this year Iran, which is predominantly Shia Muslim, sent a delegation to Saudi Arabia, which is mostly Sunni, that initiated the process of Iranian pilgrims returning for the haj.

Araji said during his meeting with Mohammed bin Salman he stressed the need “to respect the Iranian pilgrims heading for Mecca” and allow them to visit Janna al-Baqi cemetery, an important site for Shia Muslims located in Medina.

Iran boycotted the haj last year after hundreds of people, many of them Iranians, died in a crush at the pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia in 2015, and following a diplomatic rift between the two countries who are vying for power and influence in the region.