Iran welcomes Iraqi mediation with Gulf states - ambassador


FILE PHOTO: The Iranian flag waves in front of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters, before the beginning of a board of governors meeting, in Vienna, Austria, March 1, 2021. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner/File Photo/File Photo

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran said on Tuesday it welcomes Iraqi mediation to help mend its ties with Gulf Arab states, following reports that Saudi and Iranian officials had held discussions in Iraq.

The remarks by the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad came a day after Iran's foreign ministry said that Tehran always welcomed dialogue with its arch-rival Saudi Arabia, without confirming that talks had been held.

The two countries severed diplomatic ties in 2016 and have been engaged in several proxy wars in the region as they vie for influence.

"The Islamic Republic (of Iran) supports Baghdad's mediation to bring Tehran closer to countries with which we have faced challenges or with which ties have cooled, and Iraqi officials have been notified of this," Iraj Masjedi, Iran's ambassador to Iraq​, was quoted as saying by the state news agency IRNA.

Asked about any progress in talks, Masjedi said: "We have not yet reached clear results and significant progress. Let us wait for the work to go forward and we can see practical results."

A senior Iranian official and two regional sources had told Reuters that Saudi and Iranian officials held discussions in Iraq in a bid to ease tensions as Washington works to revive a 2015 nuclear pact with Tehran and end the Yemen war.

Saudi authorities have not responded to a Reuters request for comment on the talks.

Sunni power Saudi Arabia had opposed the international nuclear accord with Shi'ite Iran for not tackling Tehran's missiles programme and regional behaviour.

It has called for a stronger deal this time around at talks in Vienna aimed at bringing the United States and Iran back into compliance with the pact, which then U.S. President Donald Trump quit in 2018. Tehran has breached several nuclear restrictions set by the deal after Trump reimposed sanctions.

President Joe Biden's administration is also pressing for a ceasefire in Yemen, which is grappling with what the United Nations describes as the world's largest humanitarian crisis.

(Reporting by Dubai newsroom, Editing by William Maclean)

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