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Iran, Saudi Arabia Hint at Desire for Warmer Ties

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, seen last month, on Tuesday floated a proposal for Iran's top diplomat to visit his country. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, seen last month, on Tuesday floated a proposal for Iran's top diplomat to visit his country. (Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

Iranian and Saudi officials have signaled their nations may welcome a change to their tension-fraught relationship, the Associated Press reports.

An adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded warmly on Wednesday to an unusual attempt at outreach from Saudi Arabia, a longtime rival of Tehran. Suspicions that Iran is pursuing nuclear-weapons capabilities have prompted high-level hints that Saudi Arabia may retaliate through its own atomic endeavors, and late last month, Riyadh showed off intermediate-range ballistic missiles in a possible warning gesture to Tehran.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said his country is "ready to receive" his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif at any time, the Washington Post reported.

"Our hope is that Iran becomes a part of the effort to make the region as safe as possible," the top Saudi diplomat said.

Zarif issued no immediate reply, but Rouhani staffer Mohammad Bagher Nobakht said that "strengthening ties and good neighborly relations with [Saudi Arabia] is to the interests of the region," AP reported.

"The will of the government is that relations with Saudi Arabia be promoted to meet the interests of the two countries," Nobakht, the Iranian president's adviser for supervision and strategic affairs, added in remarks quoted by the Islamic Republic News Agency.

Still, Iran has not laid out any explicit plan for Zarif to travel to Saudi Arabia. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian added that Riyadh had yet to propose the trip in writing.

Saudi officials and Western envoys in Riyadh said the proposed visit reflects an acceptance of present-day facts, as opposed to an elimination of disagreements with Tehran, the Post reported.

"We are practical. Iran is our neighbor. We can’t fight geography," said Abdullah al-Askar, head of the Saudi Consultative Assembly's foreign affairs panel. "But that doesn't mean we agree with their policy."

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