0433 GMT February 18, 2018
A handshake between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Saudi counterpart Adel al-Jubeir on the sidelines of an OIC emergency meeting in the Turkish city of Istanbul on Tuesday, hit the headlines of many domestic and foreign media.
The meeting has been seen as a glimmer of hope for resolving a standoff between Tehran and Riyadh over regional conflicts as Zarif described the handshake as a conventional move.
In an interview with entekhab.ir, Nosratollah Tajik, a former Iranian diplomat, welcomed the handshake as an “opening point” for the initiation of talks between the two Persian Gulf nations.
Following is the excerpts of the interview:
Entekhab: What’s your take on the handshake between the Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers?
Tajik: Whether the handshake was preplanned or not, it heralds a sign that there is still a political will between Iran and Saudi Arabia to ease tensions and opt for diplomatic talks rather than military and security confrontations.
The Islamic Republic should make efforts to overcome regional tensions in order to implement its political development plans.
Close relations between Riyadh and Tehran is a positive move. This is because the crises in the Middle East help US President Donald Trump’s administration divert attention from domestic problems in his country.
Could the meeting lead to initiating Tehran-Riyadh talks?
The two Middle Eastern nations have been at odds over the past years. They may have many differences but exploring ways to resolve such differences are of high importance.
There is no way but diplomatic talks to overcome such bilateral problems.
How interested are Saudis in holding talks with the Islamic Republic?
Unfortunately, Saudi Arabia has not adopted a good approach toward Iran over the past years. The Kingdom has regarded the Islamic Republic’s redlines as security problems.
Riyadh has lambasted Iran’s Syria policy and wreaked havoc in Syria and Yemen.
Presently, Saudis have realized that their policy has reached an impasse.
Although Qatar and Turkey were supporters of Saudi Arabia’s policy in Syria, Tehran and Riyadh have played major roles in regional crisis.
Saudi Arabia and Iran should resolve their problems through diplomatic talks and shun military and security approaches.
Was the handshake a preplanned measure?
The handshake showed that the two countries are interested in putting diplomacy on the agenda which is very valuable.
Even if the meeting had been accidental, it indicates that the atmosphere for holding bilateral talks is being prepared.
The more we distance ourselves from the military and security ambience, the closer we get to the political and economic objectives.
Nonetheless, Tehran and Riyadh should pay attention to each other’s concerns. This can only be fulfilled through talks.
Saudis may have ambitious plans which necessarily do not run counter to Iran’s interests. The important thing is to make efforts to prioritize a diplomatic discourse to settle regional disputes and prevent foreign powers’ interventionist role.
A diplomatic dialogue will scuttle plans of foreigners which are aimed at maintaining regional turmoil for their own political and economic interests.
How hopeful are you that Iran-Saudi Arabia ties will improve?
The pursuance of diplomacy between the two countries is a “good opening”. A month ago, many thought that a new war would break out in the region.
However, the handshake between Zarif and Jubeir as well as the issuance of visas for a Saudi delegation to visit the Kingdom’s diplomatic missions in Iran are positive events.
Diplomacy should convey this message: Cross the stream where it is shallowest.