Iran’s Zarif Says Talks With Saudi Arabia Might Ease Yemen War

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his country’s talks with rival Saudi Arabia could spur “greater cooperation” and help end the war in Yemen.

“We’ve had some contacts with Saudi Arabia and we hope that these contacts will come to fruition through greater cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia for peace and stability in the region, particularly in Yemen,” Zarif told reporters Wednesday as he visited the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Iran backs Yemen’s Houthi rebels who have fought a Saudi-led coalition for six years, and the two Middle East powers have also been on opposing sides in Syria’s war.

Their diplomatic relationship formally collapsed in 2016 after the kingdom’s execution of a Shiite cleric sparked an attack on its embassy in Tehran. Riyadh supported then-U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision two years later to exit the landmark Iranian nuclear deal and launch an economic offensive against Iran.

In recent weeks, however, Iraq has emerged as a mediator between its two neighbors, hosting low-level talks between their officials in an attempt to ease spiraling tensions.

On April 27, Saudi Arabia’s de factor ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said he wanted to resolve differences with Iran and have a “good and positive relationship.” The thaw is widely seen as helping ongoing diplomatic efforts by world powers to revive the nuclear accord.

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have both stepped up their efforts to end the fighting in Yemen, which has seen dozens of Houthi attacks on the kingdom’s oil infrastructure, but have so far failed to arrange a cease-fire.

Separately, Zarif said he would open a new Iranian consulate in war-ravaged Aleppo during his Syrian visit and hopes the outpost will improve trade and economic ties with the Islamic Republic.

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