Iranian President Invited by Saudi King to Visit for the First Time in 25 Years
After striking their historic peace deal which was mediated by China in Beijing over a week ago, Iran and Saudi Arabia continue to make strides toward full normalization of ties, after being archenemies for decades and their peoples being rivals for centuries when it came to the religious Shia-Sunni divide before that.
An Iranian official announced on Sunday that the King of Saudi Arabia had issued a formal invitation to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to visit Riyadh in an unprecedented move. Raisi is said to have “welcomed” the invite from King Salman. Now what remains is setting a date. The Iranian Foreign Ministry also confirmed the upcoming meeting.
Such an official head-of-state visit hasn’t taken place in over 20 years, with the last Iranian president to visit the kingdom being President Mohammad Khatami in February 1998. That visit in the late 90’s was the first trip by an Iranian president to Saudi Arabia since the 1979 Iranian Islamic revolution.
This could also eventually usher in a new era of hoped-for regional stability. Not only has the regional rivalry, which intensified most during the decade of the proxy war in Syria which began in 2011, been set amid a centuries-long divide over the correct interpretation of Islam (Shia Iran vs. Sunni Saudi Arabia), but it has also spilt over in places like Yemen, scene of another grinding proxy war which pits Shia rebels against a Saudi-backed government.