Riyadh (Reuters) – Iran’s embassy in Saudi Arabia reopened its gates on Wednesday for the first time in seven years, a Reuters witness said, under a deal to re-establish ties that could ease a long-standing rivalry that has helped fuel conflicts around the Middle East.
The heavy gates of the Iranian embassy’s compound were open in Riyadh with a team inspecting its premises, a Reuters reporter said. A white truck was seen arriving at the gate.
The diplomatic mission opened hours after the Iranian foreign ministry said a technical delegation arrived in the kingdom.
“The Iranian delegation will take the necessary measures in Riyadh and Jeddah to set up the embassy and consulate general,” Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, Nasser Kanaani, said in a statement.
The mission had been closed since Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran in 2016, after its embassy in Tehran was stormed during a dispute between the two countries over Riyadh’s execution of a Shi’ite cleric. The kingdom subsequently asked Iranian diplomats to leave within 48 hours while it evacuated its embassy staff from Tehran.
The relationship had begun worsening a year earlier, after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates intervened in Yemen’s war, where the Iran-aligned Houthi movement had ousted a Saudi-backed government and taken over the capital Sanaa.
Riyadh accused Iran of arming the Houthis, who went on to attack Saudi cities with armed drones and ballistic missiles. In 2019, the kingdom blamed an attack on Aramco oil facilities, which knocked out half of its oil output, directly on the Islamic Republic.
Iran denied those accusations.
The hostility between the two regional arch-rivals and major oil producers helped to fuel strife around the region. Last month, they agreed to end their diplomatic rift and reopen their diplomatic missions in a deal brokered by China.
Both countries’ foreign ministers met in Beijing earlier this month for the first formal gathering of their top diplomats.
Saudi officials also arrived in Iran to discuss procedures for reopening Riyadh’s embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad, the Saudi foreign ministry said on Saturday.