Iraqi PM arrives in Iran after Saudi visit to push for revival of Tehran-Riyadh talks


FILE PHOTO: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, upon his arrival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, June 25, 2022. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi arrived in Iran on Sunday, Iranian state TV reported, a day after he travelled to Saudi Arabia in a bid to revive talks between the regional rivals to ease years of hostility.

Iran and Saudi Arabia, the leading Shi'ite and Sunni Muslim powers in the Middle East, severed ties in 2016, with both parties backing allies fighting proxy wars across the region, from Yemen to Syria and elsewhere.

"The Iraqi prime minister has arrived in Tehran with a high-ranking delegation of political and economic officials to discuss regional and bilateral issues," Iran's state TV said.

Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia rose further in 2019 after an assault on Saudi oil plants that Riyadh blamed on Iran, a charge Tehran denies.

An Iranian official told Reuters that "the resumption of talks between Tehran and Riyadh will be discussed during Khadimi's trip to Iran".

The fifth round of talks were held in April, after Iran suspended the negotiations in March without giving a reason but the decision was made following Saudi Arabia's execution of 81 men in its biggest mass execution in decades. Tehran condemned the executions that activists said included 41 Shi'ite Muslims.

On Saturday, Kadhimi held talks with Saudi de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah that the state news agency SPA said included bilateral relations and "boosting security and stability in the region".

Kadhimi’s visit comes as a months-long impasse in the indirect talks between Tehran and Washington is expected to break in the coming days to secure a 2015 nuclear pact which curbed Tehran's nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to visit Riyadh in mid-July and talks are expected to include Gulf security concerns over Iran's ballistic missiles programme and network of proxies across the Middle East.

(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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