June 17 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia wants enhanced maritime security in the crucial Persian Gulf region as part of its rapprochement with long-time rival Iran, Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said on Saturday.
Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed in March, in a deal brokered by China, to end a diplomatic rift and reestablish relations following years of hostility that had endangered regional stability including in the Persian Gulf, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.
“I would like to refer to the importance of cooperation between the two countries on regional security, especially the security of maritime navigation… and the importance of cooperation among all regional countries to ensure that it is free of weapons of mass destruction,” Prince Faisal said.
Speaking after talks with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian in Tehran, Prince Faisal also said the Saudi king and crown prince are looking forward to Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi “accepting the invitation to visit the Kingdom soon, God willing”.
Amirabdollahian told a televised joint media event that security was vital for regional countries.
“Iran has never equated security with militarism but sees it as a broad concept including political, cultural, social, economic and trade aspects,” he said.
The kingdom broke ties with Iran in 2016 after protesters attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran in retaliation for Riyadh’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.
Tanker traffic through the Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf – through which a fifth of the world’s oil passes – has become the focus for a standoff between Iran and the United States, which has increased its military presence in the region in recent years.
Iran has recently been trying to mend its strained ties with several Persian Gulf’s Arab states.
Saudi Arabia’s rapprochement with Iran has left Israel largely alone as it has sought to isolate Iran diplomatically.
The United Arab Emirates, which was the first Persian Gulf’s Arab country to sign a normalisation agreement with Israel in 2020, resumed formal relations with Iran last year.
Bahrain and Morocco later joined the UAE in establishing ties with Israel.
(Reporting by Hatem Maher in Cairo, Aziz El Yaakoubi in Riyadh and Dubai newsroom; Editing by Mark Heinrich, Louise Heavens and Mike Harrison)