Saudi Foreign Minister Says Invited Iran Counterpart to Visit

Saudi Arabia has extended an invitation to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to visit the kingdom and said it’s willing to work with the Islamic republic to stabilize the region.

“Anytime he sees fit to come we are waiting to receive him,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal said at a news conference in Riyadh today. “We will talk with them. Our hope is that Iran becomes a part of the effort to make the region safe as possible.”

Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia and Shiite-led Iran are on the opposite ends of some of the major crises in the Middle East from Syria to Lebanon to Yemen. Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, backs rebels seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, an ally of Iran. The kingdom also accuses Iran of fomenting unrest among Shiites in Gulf Cooperation Council states -- especially in Bahrain.

The invitation doesn’t mean “that everything is over in terms of the issues they have with each other, but it’s a big step in the direction of reconciliation,” Ghanem Nuseibeh, founder of Cornerstone Global Associates, which advises clients on risk in the Middle East, said by telephone from London. “They know that they need to work together to ensure that their interests don’t go directly against each other.”

The rivalry between the two countries intensified after the Islamic revolution of 1979, which mobilized the masses in a form of street politics that’s anathema to Saudi Arabia’s monarchy. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pledged in June to ease his country’s isolation and to help defuse decades of tension with Gulf Arab states.

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