DUBAI, May 1 (Reuters) – The growing rapprochement between Riyadh and Tehran after years of mistrust was visible on Monday as Saudi Arabia helped evacuate Iranian citizens fleeing the war in Sudan.
The Saudi navy carried the 65 Iranian citizens from Port Sudan to Jeddah and they will fly onwards to Tehran.
Iran‘s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani called the transfer “a positive event” that had taken place thanks to Saudi-Iranian cooperation.
Ahmed al-Dabais, a senior Saudi military officer handling the operation, told Iranian evacuees that the two countries were good friends and brothers and they should regard the kingdom as their own country, in a video carried by local television.
Saudi Arabia, across the Red Sea from Sudan, has been a major hub for the evacuation effort as countries have worked to pull thousands of foreign citizens out of the conflict that suddenly erupted on April 15.
Revolutionary Shi’ite Muslim Iran and conservative, Sunni Saudi Arabia had feuded for years, backing opposing sides in wars and political struggles across the Middle East in a tussle for influence that fed conflicts and inflamed sectarian hatred.
Saudi Arabia cut off diplomatic relations in 2016 after Iranian protesters stormed the kingdom’s Tehran embassy following Riyadh’s execution of a Shi’ite Muslim cleric.
However, the two major oil producers agreed to end their rift and reopen diplomatic missions in a deal brokered in March by China.
(Reporting by Reuters TV, Parisa Hafezi and Ghaida Ghantous, Writing by Angus McDowall)