Report: Iran, Saudis resume talks in Iraq after months

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran resumed talks with regional rival Saudi Arabia months after secret Baghdad-brokered talks were suspended, state-linked media reported Saturday.

The Iranian news website Nournews, considered to be close to the country’s Supreme National Security Council, said a fifth round of talks was held in Baghdad. Ranking security officials from both sides as well as Iraqi and Omani officials, participated it said. It was not immediately clear when the talks took place. The fourth round took place in September.

Nournews reported a positive atmosphere permeated the talks increasing hopes for “steps on the path of resumption of ties” between the two nations, including a joint meeting of foreign ministers. Nournews also published a photo of two Iranian and Saudi officials standing at the side of Iraqi premier Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

Iraq borders both Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Iran, the largest Shiite Muslim country in the world, and Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties in 2016 after Saudi Arabia executed prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr. Angry Iranians protesting the execution stormed two Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran, fueling years of animosity between the nations.

In March, Tehran said it temporarily suspend the talks, aimed at defusing yearslong tensions, after Saudi Arabia put to death 81 people convicted of crimes ranging from killings to ties to militant groups. Activists believe more three dozen Shiites were among those executed.

The Baghdad-mediated talks between the regional foes began quietly in Iraq’s capital last year as Saudi Arabia sought a way to end its disastrous war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. The conflict has spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters and brought bombs from rebel drones and missiles raining down on Saudi airports and oil facilities.

Saudi Shiites, who live primarily in the kingdom’s oil-rich east, have long complained of being treated as second-class citizens. Saudi Arabia’s executions of Shiites have stirred regional unrest in the past.

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