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Iran says it is open to talks with Saudi Arabia in major development

IRAN said today that it remained open to talks with regional rival Saudi Arabia following media reports that the two countries had held secret discussion in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that Tehran “has always welcomed talks with the Saudi kingdom and has deemed it beneficial to the two countries’ people and regional peace and stability, and this thought will continue.”

Tehran and Riyadh severed diplomatic ties in January 2019 after an attack on Saudi Arabia’s embassy in the Iranian capital, which followed the execution of a prominent Shi’ite leader in Riyadh.

Last week, the Financial Times and the Reuters news agency reported that officials from the two countries had met in Baghdad and discussed the war in Yemen, with Saudi Arabia accusing Iran of backing the Houthi rebels there.

Riyadh denied that such a meeting had taken place and Mr Khatibzadeh refused to be drawn on the issue, instead saying that media organisations have a history of fabricating news and using “contradictory quotes.”

Meanwhile, negotiations are under way in Vienna on the resurrection of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.

The pact was effectively scrapped when former US president Donald Trump withdrew from it and imposed a series of crippling sanctions on Tehran.

Mr Khatibzadeh said that, for the talks to progress, the US must move away from Mr Trump’s failed “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran and reaffirm its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal.

Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany are also involved in the negotiations. Iran has representatives in Vienna but has refused to hold face-to-face meetings with the US while the sanctions remain in force.

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