Iran has reopened its embassy in Saudi Arabia, seven years after the regional rivals severed diplomatic ties.
Representatives of the Iranian and Saudi foreign ministries attended the ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV reported.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Alireza Bigdeli, said it was a sign that cooperation was “entering a new era”.
It comes three months after the Gulf countries agreed to restore ties in a deal brokered by China.
Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran in 2016 following the storming of its embassy in Tehran by crowds protesting against the kingdom’s execution of a prominent Shia Muslim cleric.
At a meeting with his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud in Cape Town last Friday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian expressed satisfaction with the “good progress made in bilateral ties”.
Iran’s foreign ministry also cited Prince Farhan as saying that the groundwork was being laid to reopen the Saudi embassy in Tehran and confirming that he would visit there “soon”.
Saudi Arabia, which sees itself as the leading Sunni Muslim power, and Iran, the largest Shia Muslim country, have been locked in a struggle for regional dominance for decades. But in recent years, their rivalry has been exacerbated by proxy wars across the Middle East.
In Yemen, Saudi Arabia has been backing pro-government forces in their war against the Houthi rebel movement since 2015. Iran has denied that it is smuggling weapons to the Houthis, who have carried out missile and drone attacks on Saudi cities and oil infrastructure.
Saudi Arabia has also accused Iran of interfering in Lebanon and Iraq, where Iranian-backed Shia militias have amassed vast military and political influence; of attacking cargo and oil tankers in the Gulf; and of being behind a missile and drone strike in 2019 on major Saudi oil installations. Iran has denied involvement in the attacks on the ships and oil facilities.
The reopening of Iran’s embassy coincided with a visit to Saudi Arabia by the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken. He is expected to talk to Saudi leaders about Iran, oil prices, Chinese and Russian influence in the region, and the possibility of Saudi Arabia normalising ties with Israel.