World News

Iran, Saudi Arabia to try diplomatic exchange in apparent thaw

Posted August 23

Iran and Saudi Arabia are planning a diplomatic exchange in a move indicating a thaw in their icy relations, an Iranian official said in an interview with state media.

"Iranian and Saudi diplomats will travel and visit the embassy and consulates in one another's countries," Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said on the Iranian Student News Agency. "Visas have been issued by both sides and we are awaiting the final steps."

Zarif said the exchange would probably happen sometime after the religious Hajj pilgrimage, which starts at the end of August and ends around September 4.

CNN has reached out to Saudi Arabia for comment, but has so far not received a response.

This exchange is a further sign of efforts at a rapprochement between two of the region's leading powers: Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran.

It mirrors other small but seemingly symbolic moves by the countries, including a handshake between Zarif and his Saudi Arabia counterpart, Adel al-Jubeir, on the sidelines of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit in Turkey in early August.

In July, Iraq's Shia cleric Muqtada Sadr paid a rare visit to Saudi Arabia. He has longstanding ties with Iran.

The schism between the two nations has roots in the 14-century split between the Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam over who should succeed the Islamic Prophet Mohammed as leader of the Islamic faith.

Now the tensions are made worse by changes in the oil industry and Iran's nuclear deal with the United States.

Just last month, Iran's Revolutionary Guards said Saudi Arabia supported ISIS in deadly attacks in Tehran.

At least 12 people were killed when six attackers mounted simultaneous gun and suicide bomb assaults on Iran's Parliament building and the tomb of the republic's revolutionary founder.

Also in July, a state-run Iranian news agency accused Saudi hackers of planting a fabricated news story on its Twitter account.

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