Zarif: Relations with Neighbors Top Priority— Silent on Saudi Arabia

  • Mohammad Javad Zarif and others have repeatedly stressed the importance of neighborly relations.
  • The Yemeni war has been a major point of contention between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
  • Some Saudi officials have denied trying to send a message to Iran or mediate in other countries.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has described relations with neighbors, and facilitating economic affairs, as Iran’s “top foreign policy priority.” Mr. Zarif made these remarks while answering questions from members in the Iranian Parliament. He cited his trip to Pakistan to congratulate Imran Khan after he became Prime Minister, saying he was the first foreign minister to do so.

After Pakistan gained its independence in August 1947, Iran was the first country to recognize its sovereign status. However, the 1979 Iranian Revolution transformed Pakistan and Iran into rivals instead of partners.

Mr. Zarif referred to ongoing talks between Iran and Pakistan on border insecurity, which he characterized as part of Iran’s “good relations” with Pakistan’s military commander. He also said he talked with the Afghan president on five issues, including the “water committee,” and that Iran is awaiting the outcome of the Afghan elections.

Silence about Saudi Arabia

Since the return of US sanctions, and differences with Europeans over JCPOA, Mr. Zarif, the Iranian Foreign Ministry, and other Iranian officials have repeatedly stressed the importance of neighborly relations. Earlier, Mr. Zarif had put forward a plan for non-aggression between the Gulf states, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had presented a “Hormuz Peace Initiative” in his speech to the UN General Assembly.

Mr. Zarif spoke about Iran’s unprecedented relations with its neighbors, citing ongoing tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia as one of the most important regional security threats. In his remarks today, the Iranian Foreign Minister did not make explicit reference to Iran-Saudi relations or its allies in the region, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

The Yemeni war has been a major point of contention with Iran, and in recent weeks the attack on Saudi Aramco oil facilities has raised unprecedented tensions between Riyadh and Tehran. Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of involvement in the attacks. Iran denies the allegations and says the Houthi militants, who have claimed responsibility for the attacks, carried them out.

Within weeks of these tensions, there have been reports of diplomatic attempts to broker or send messages from Saudi Arabia. During his recent visit, Mr. Rouhani spoke of Prime Minister Khan’s efforts to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Bijan Namdar Zangeneh is an Iranian politician, who served as minister at different cabinets after the Islamic Revolution for 32 years. He has been serving as oil minister since August 15, 2013 in the cabinet led by Hassan Rouhani.

Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh on Sunday also called his Saudi counterpart and friend of five years on Sunday, saying he had recently a “passing visit” to Moscow. Mr. Zanganeh said Iran wanted to be friends with everyone in the region and urged others not to regard Iran as their enemy. Hussein Naqavi Hosseini, a spokesman for the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Majlis, also said today that Iran “strongly welcomes the proposal” to negotiate with the countries of the region, including Saudi Arabia, because it believes many problems will be resolved.

Some Saudi officials have denied trying to send a message to Iran or mediate in other countries, but the New York Times reported on Saturday in a report on “indirect” efforts by the two sides to reduce tensions in silence. The newspaper quoted Iraqi and Pakistani officials saying that Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, had urged the leaders of the two countries to talk to Iranian officials about easing tensions. According to the New York Times, Iranians have also welcomed talks with Saudi Arabia.

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Doris Mkwaya

I am a journalist, with more than 12 years of experience as a reporter, author, editor, and journalism lecturer." I've worked as a reporter, editor and journalism lecturer, and am very enthusiastic about bringing what I've learned to this site.  

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