Saudi Arabia ready to negotiate better ties with Iran: FM

14 May 2014 | 19:11 Code : 1932809 Latest Headlines

Saudi Arabia is ready to negotiate better relations with regional rival Iran, Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told reporters in Riyadh on Tuesday.

The kingdom has also invited Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to visit Riyadh, Faisal said, hinting at a thaw between the Persian Gulf's two biggest rivals since Tehran reached an interim nuclear deal with world powers.

"Iran is a neighbor, we have relations with them and we will negotiate with them," the Saudi minister said, according to AFP.

"We will talk with them in the hope that if there are any differences, they will be settled to the satisfaction of both countries," he told reporters.

Zarif has visited most of Saudi Arabia's Persian Gulf Arab allies including Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates since the nuclear pact, which eased some Arab worries, but has not been to Riyadh.

Faisal told a news conference that Zarif had been given an invitation to the kingdom but had not yet responded. He did not say when Riyadh issued the invitation, according to Reuters.

"Any time he sees fit to come, we are willing to have (Zarif)," Prince Saud said in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

Zarif said in December that he would like to visit Saudi Arabia and appealed to the kingdom to work with Tehran in the search for regional "stability."

Relations between Iran and most of its Persian Gulf Arab neighbors have been improving since Iran agreed preliminary limits on its nuclear activity last year, but ties with Saudi Arabia remained chilly.

Since taking office in August, moderate President Hassan Rouhani has overseen a conciliatory shift in Iran's hitherto confrontational foreign relations, culminating in the November 24 interim nuclear deal.

Ties with Saudi Arabia, however, are complicated by the fact that the two back opposing parties in Syria's civil war. Riyadh is a leading supporter of rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Faisal's remarks came as U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was in Saudi Arabia on the first leg of a regional tour focusing on Iran's nuclear program and the war in Syria.

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