Riyadh, June 7: Iran reopened it embassy in Saudi Arabia for the first time in seven years on Tuesday (June 6). The move has reaffirmed a Chinese-brokered rapprochement between two formerly antagonistic powers in West Asia. The rapprochement is likely to change the equations in the region greatly.
The Iranian mission has opened in its former premises in Riyadh's diplomatic quarter. The location is near Syria's embassy, the reopening of which is expected soon following Saudi outreach to Damascus.
"We consider today an important day in the relations of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Alireza Bigdeli told a flag-raising ceremony.
"The cooperation between the countries is entering a new era."
Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to restart their respective embassies in the month of March this year. Both countries resolved to work towards resuming ties. In 2016, Saudi Arabia has broken off relations with Iran following Iranian protests.
On its part now, Saudi Arabia is yet to confirm when it will open its embassy in the Iranian capital of Tehran. It is also yet to decide who will be the ambassador. A Saudi delegation however, visited the Iranian capital in April.
Blinken in Saudi Arabia
The reopening of Iranian embassy coincided with a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Saudi Arabia. Blinken's meet to Saudi Arabia has come as the oil-rich kingdom has been establishing closer ties with Washington's rivals.
The ceremony at the embassy was also attended by Ali Al Youssef, director of consular affairs at the Saudi foreign ministry.
The mission returns under the leadership of Alireza Enayati, Iran's former ambassador to Kuwait.
Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim power, severed ties with Shia-led Iran in 2016 after its embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashhad were attacked during protests which erupted after Riyadh executed Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.
After years of discord, the two Middle East heavyweights signed a surprise reconciliation agreement in China on March 10.
Since then, Saudi Arabia has restored ties with Tehran ally Syria and ramped up a push for peace in Yemen, where it has for years led a military coalition against the Iran-backed Huthi forces.
Iran and Saudi Arabia have backed opposing sides in conflict zones across the Middle East for years.
Blinken is expected to meet the Saudi de facto leader Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah during his visit, according to a US official.
The top US diplomat is also due to attend a Gulf Cooperation Council meeting in Riyadh on Wednesday.