Iran and Saudi Arabia signed a China-brokered agreement on Friday to restore diplomatic relations, ending a seven-year dispute.
Closed-door talks between top security officials took place in Beijing this week, leading to a Friday announcement in which Tehran and Riyadh agreed to re-open embassies within two months and to refrain from interfering in each other’s domestic affairs.
“The three countries expressed their keenness to exert all efforts towards enhancing regional and international peace and security,” according to a statement signed by senior representatives from China, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia had been locked in a diplomatic dispute since 2016, following Riyadh’s execution of prominent Shia Muslim cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. He had been convicted of terror-related offenses in Iran.
The execution of al-Nimr and 46 others led to heated demonstrations by Iranian protesters at the Saudi Arabian embassy in Tehran in January 2016. The kingdom subsequently severed diplomatic ties with Iran.
Saudi Arabia also leveled accusations against Iran for 2019 missile attacks on oil facilities as well as offenses against tankers in the Gulf. Iran denied the accusations, but Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi movement has been held responsible for missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabian territory.
The U.S. welcomed Friday’s agreement but remained cautious. White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that “better relations” among countries in the Middle East “are better for everybody.” But he added that it remains “to be seen if Iran is going to meet their obligations.”
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres also welcomed the deal.
“The Secretary-General reiterates his readiness to use his good offices to further advance regional dialogue to ensure durable peace and security in the Gulf region,” U.N. spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said in a statement.