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Saudi foreign minister says some progress in talks with Iran

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Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Tuesday that there had been some progress in talks with Iran but “not enough” and that the Kingdom’s hands remain outstretched to Tehran.

Saudi Arabia and Iran have held five rounds of talks hosted by Baghdad.

“We have made some progress but not enough,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud told a World Economic Forum panel. “Our hands are stretched out.”

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“We continue to encourage our neighbors in Iran to lean into what can be a very, very important sea change in our region,” he said, adding that a “new era of cooperation” in the region could deliver benefits for all.

Saudi Arabia and Iran, which severed ties in 2016, launched direct talks last year as global powers moved to salvage a 2015 nuclear pact with Iran, which Gulf Arab states had seen as flawed for not addressing regional security concerns.

The nuclear talks have been on hold since March.

Prince Faisal said if a deal is reached it would “be potentially a good thing if it’s a good deal” and reiterated Riyadh’s stance that Tehran’s regional activities should be addressed.

Asked whether Riyadh was pleased by elections in Lebanon in which Iran-backed Hezbollah and its allies lost their parliamentary majority, Prince Faisal said: “This may be a positive step, but it’s too early to tell.”

He said it would depend on whether there would be real political reform “that re-imposes the authority of the state” and combats corruption as well as real economic reform.

Lebanon’s ties with Saudi Arabia, formerly a major donor to Beirut, had been damaged over what the Saudi foreign minister has said was the growing influence of Hezbollah in the country.

Asked why Riyadh has rebuffed US calls to raise oil production, Prince Faisal said Saudi Arabia does not expect an immediate shortage of oil and only a certain shortage of oil products.

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