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Riyadh has not issued official invite to Iranian Foreign Minister – Saudi official source | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – A well-informed Saudi official source has stated to Asharq Al-Awsat that Riyadh has not issued an official invite to Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi to visit Saudi Arabia, adding that Riyadh welcomed the request made by the then newly-appointed Iranian Foreign Minister Salehi to visit Saudi Arabia.

This clarification was issued by an official Saudi source speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity. The Saudi official confirmed that no official invitation had been issued to the Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi to visit Saudi Arabia, however the [Saudi] government welcomes any meeting between Saudi officials and Iranian officials, against the background of the position announced by Salehi after he was first appointed Iranian Foreign Minister, when he announced that developing Iranian – Saudi relations represent a “priority” for Tehran.

As for media reports that Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal had issued an official invitation to his Iranian counterpart Ali Akbar Salehi to visit Riyadh during a joint press conference with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in Riyadh, the Saudi official stressed to Asharq Al-Awsat that Prince Saud al-Faisal was speaking about his personal history of communication with his Iranian counterparts, from former Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati [1981 -1997], Kamal Kharazai [1997 – 2005], Manouchehr Mottaki [2005 – 2010], and finally Ali Akbar Salehi, who he has yet to meet in an official capacity.

During the joint press conference held in Riyadh, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal implicitly criticized Iranian foreign policy stating that “in politics disagreement is normal”. He added that “I would like to state that there was a series of talks wit Iran in the past, including a scheduled visit for [former] Iranian Foreign Minister [Manouchehr Mottaki] to visit Riyadh to discuss the points of difference [between Saudi Arabia and Iran] in order for relations to return to normal. Regrettably, they were not resolved and no meeting took place because of the conditions placed by Iran [on this visit].”

The Saudi Foreign Minister added that “the new Iranian Foreign Minister [Ali Akbar Salehi] telephoned me whilst he was in Pakistani, expressing his wish to continue [bilateral] dialogue [between Iran and Saudi Arabia]. I told him that Iran has already received an invitation [to visit] and that whenever they felt [ready] to do that…they are welcome.” He added that Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi offered to hold a “tripartite meeting in Kuwait [between Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iran]” and he responded by asking why should “Kuwait shoulder the [burden of] Saudi – Iranian differences?” The Saudi Foreign Minister also stressed that if Iran wants to play a leading role in the region, it must work to preserve the interests of regional countries, not just its own.

For his part, GCC Secretary-General Dr. Abdullatif Bin Rashid Al Zayani condemned the reported statements made by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi in which he said that Tehran was seeking to defend and support the rights of the people of Bahrain. GCC Secretary-General Dr. Al Zayani described Salehi’s remarks as being “blatant interference in the affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain, and a violation of diplomatic customs and principles of good neighborliness.”

The GCC Secretary-General vehemently rejected Tehran’s call for the withdrawal of the GCC Peninsula Shield forces, dismissing this as blatant interference in Bahraini affairs. He stressed that “the [Peninsula Shield] forces have been dispatched to Bahrain following the criminal plot, supporter from abroad, to subvert Bahrain’s security and stability, and topple its legitimate political regime.” He added that “the presence of the Peninsula Shield forces in Bahrain is legitimate and legal, based on the sovereign demands of the Kingdom of Bahrain and in line with the GCC joint-military pacts.”

As for Tehran’s claim that the deployment of the Peninsula Shield forces to Bahrain was similar to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, Dr. Al Zayani stressed that “the deployment of the Peninsula Shield forces in Bahrain has been welcomed and understood in the Arab, regional, and international arenas, whereas Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait as a flagrant aggression and colonization of an independent and sovereign Arab country.”