Saudi Arabia has held four rounds of “exploratory” talks with Iran, the last of which was held in September, revealed Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan after meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Riyadh on Sunday.
Speaking at a press conference after their meeting, Prince Faisal hoped the exploratory talks would set the foundation to address pending issues.
“The fourth round was held on September 21 and they are still in the exploratory phase,” he said in response to question by Asharq Al-Awsat about the seriousness of Iran at these meetings.
On Yemen, Prince Faisal warned the Iran-backed Houthi militias against hoping to reach a military solution the country’s conflict.
He said Saudi Arabia and the United States are engaged in comprehensive dialogue to reach a ceasefire in the war-torn country.
The only way to reach that is for the Houthis to stop their attacks on the Marib province and Saudi Arabia, he stressed.
He noted that there are no obstacles to reaching a ceasefire, explaining that Sanaa airport is open to all humanitarian flights and Hodeidah port is open to trade ships.
For his part, Borrell, in responding to a question by Asharq Al-Awsat, said the EU “understands” the fears of the Gulf over nuclear security and the importance of security in the Middle East and world.
He hoped negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program would resume soon in Vienna. He revealed that he had held talks with the Iranian foreign minister to that end on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last month.
He said Iran “needed time”, while the participants at the talks were worried about the delay. Borrell said the opportunity must be seized and the Iranians must immediately return to the talks.
He added that he realizes the importance the impact the talks will have on the region, especially Saudi Arabia.
Turning to climate affairs, he said: “I am happy that we managed to launch dialogue between the European Union and Saudi Arabia on energy, where we look at common points between our Green Deal and the Saudi Vision 2030 when it comes to renewable energy, emission reduction and carbon capture.”
“I strongly believe that Saudi Arabia can and should lead by example in the Gulf and the wider region on these issues. Together we can make a difference for the world’s climate, especially in light of the upcoming climate summit COP26.”
Borrell also met during his visit to the Kingdom with Gulf Cooperation Council Secretary-General Nayef al-Hajraf.
“We are currently discussing possibilities to step up dialogue and cooperation between the two regional blocks,” he told reporters.
“We already had a ministerial meeting last week in New York and I informed my partners about the intention to convene a Joint Cooperation council early next year, because this Joint Cooperation Council has not been meeting since the last six years and this is something that has to be amended,” he continued.
“We are ready to resume negotiations of a modern, comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council,” he stressed.
Borrell also condemned the attacks launched by the Houthis against Saudi Arabia.
He said the EU is aware that the Kingdom is suffering from ballistic missile attacks launched by the Houthis, stating that the bloc is aware of who is supplying the militias with these weapons.
He stressed that the EU is dedicating all of its diplomatic and political efforts so that the Houthis realize that there can be no other solution to the conflict.
The war cannot end through a military solution, but through negotiations, he added, while strongly condemning the Houthi attacks against the Kingdom that he said violate all international laws and norms.
Prince Faisal and Borrell signed a Cooperation Arrangement between the EU External Action Service and Saudi Foreign Ministry to “reinforce our ties through regular consultations on political, socio-economic, security and other topics,” tweeted the European official.
Borrell also met on his trip with State Minister for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir and UN envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg.