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Iran says it's ready to resolve differences with Saudis

Zarif made the comments during a three-day visit to Pakistan [AFP]

Date of publication: 14 March, 2018

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said his country is willing to resolve its differences with regional rival Saudi Arabia as part of efforts to stabilise the region.

Iran said it is willing to resolve its differences with Saudi Arabia as part of Tehran's desire for stability in the region, according to the Iranian foreign minister on Wednesday.

Mohammad Javad Zarif made the remarks in an interview with Pakistan's Geo television late on Tuesday during his three-day visit that to Islamabad.

But this wasn’t the first time Iran extended its hand to arch-rival Saudi Arabia, the FM claimed, noting Tehran had also expressed willingness to improve ties with Saudi Arabia when Pakistan's former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited Iran during the Yemen crisis. The Kingdom's response was not warm, Zarif said.

Similar rhetoric was shared by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani who said Iran is ready to discuss regional security issues with its Gulf Arab neighbours as long as foreign powers are kept out of any potential talks.

"We don't need foreigners to guarantee the security of our region," Rouhani said in a speech broadcast on state television.

"When it comes to regional security arrangements, we are ready to talk to our neighbours and friends, without the presence of foreigners," he added.

"We are, have been and always will be good neighbours," Rouhani said, addressing Gulf Arab countries including Iran's regional rival Saudi Arabia.

Rouhani was speaking in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas overlooking the Gulf - a flashpoint of tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The two powers, who severed diplomatic ties in January 2016, have taken opposing sides in wars in Syria and Yemen.

Iran is the main regional backer of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, who has been launching a brutal campaign against his country’s civilians to maintain power after peaceful protests began in 2011.

In Yemen, a Saudi-led coalition has been bombing since 2015 Iran-backed Houthi rebels opposed to the internationally recognised government.

Western powers and their Gulf Arab allies say Iran is a destabilising influence in the Middle East.

Tehran, however, has regularly called for a dialogue with its neighbours free of any foreign interference.

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