How the normalization of Saudi-Iranian relations will help the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia is normalising relations with Iran. (Photo by Shutterstock)

Normalising Saudi-Iranian relations is an important step towards achieving security and stability in the Middle East. Ahmad Abdul-Rahman explains.

The restoration of Saudi-Iranian relations is the most important event the Middle East has witnessed in decades. This includes the resumption of diplomatic relations, the opening of embassies, respect for the sovereignty of states and the non-interference in the internal affairs of either country. A meeting between the foreign ministers of Iran and Saudi Arabia to activate this agreement and discuss ways to strengthen relations between the two states that have been in conflict for four decades is an important step in this direction. In this regard, it was decided to resume the security agreement signed in 2001.

This step is important because there is no possibility of achieving security and stability in the Middle East until there is stability in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran. This step also shows the desire of the two countries to move from estrangement to normal relations with all its opportunities and challenges.

The two sides also emphasised the importance of respecting the sovereignty of states which means not interfering in the internal affairs of the other country. In the past, Saudi Arabia complained that Iranian practices in this regard were unacceptable.

The security agreement signed between the two sides two decades ago has been resumed. It is of particular importance because most of the differences between the two countries are related to national security issues. Moreover, the security agencies and institutions are always highly reluctant to open political channels of communication. Therefore, the activation of the security agreement is important for resuming normal relations between the two countries and to having the normalisation of relations supported by conservative national institutions.

Previously, China had proposed a five-point initiative to achieve security and stability through dialogue in the Middle East. 

The Saudi-Iranian dialogue took place outside the Middle East, unlike other dialogues  that took place in Baghdad in Iraq or Muscat in Oman. Surprisingly, the most recent agreement was signed in China and is unusual because the countries were not close to China geographically.

However, it is believed that China hosting this event is related to several things, including its dependence on Middle Eastern energy sources, and its willingness to start active global diplomacy. This new direction of Chinese diplomacy was expressed by the new Chinese foreign minister and was also reflected in the speech of Chinese President Xi Jinping on the occasion of his winning an unprecedented third term.

As expected, reactions emerged from Western, including American, sources, towards the content of the Saudi-Iranian declaration, and it is no exaggeration to say that the declaration will be the subject of careful study and evaluation.

However, it is expected that the West welcomes the Iranian-Saudi agreement if only to avoid a slide towards a military clash with Iran over its nuclear programme. The West has also been concerned about Iranian-Russian cooperation which has increased thanks to the Russian-Ukraine war.

Although there is Western anger towards Russia over the events in Ukraine, this seems less intense than the emergence of China's increasing confidence and broader ambition as regards foreign policy. It is likely that the Saudi-Iranian announcement and the fact that the summit between the countries was hosted by China will be of great interest to the countries of Middle East as well as the West.

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Saturday, 30 September 2023