TEHRAN, Iran — Iraq’s caretaker prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi arrived in Iran on Sunday, state TV reported, on a visit aimed at reactivating Baghdad-mediated talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Al-Kadhimi’s office said Saturday he arrived in the Saudi city of Jiddah for an official visit to meet with Saudi officials. It was his second visit to Saudi Arabia since he took the post of prime minister in May 2020.
Iran, the largest Shiite Muslim country in the world, and Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties in 2016 after Saudi Arabia executed prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr. Angry Iranians protesting the execution stormed two Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran, fueling years of animosity between the nations.
The Saudi-Iran talks aimed at defusing yearslong tensions between the regional foes began quietly in Iraq’s capital in 2021. Saudi Arabia sought a way to end its disastrous war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. The conflict has spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters and brought bombs from rebel drones and missiles raining down on Saudi airports and oil facilities.
Besides Yemen, Iran and Saudi Arabia support opposite sides in conflicts in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. Iraq borders both Iran and Saudi Arabia and is often caught in the middle of the two nations’ proxy wars.
A fifth and last round of talks was held in Baghdad in April before they were suspended again amid soaring Middle East tensions.
Al-Kadhimi has stressed he wants balanced relations with the two neighbors. Improving relations with Saudi Arabia was a key policy of his administration when he took office.