Iran Seeks Tunisia’s Mediation in Standoff with Saudi Arabia

Tehran has reportedly requested Tunisia to mediate in the enduring tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Gulf News reports.

A report in the Kuwaiti daily Al Jarida on Wednesday said that Mohammad Irani, the Director General for the Middle East and North Africa at the Iranian foreign ministry, was dispatched to Tunisia as a personal emissary for Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif to request his Tunisian counterpart Khemaies Jhinaoui to “intervene in the crisis between Tehran and Riyadh and discuss with the Saudis the possibility of behind-the-scenes talks between the two countries to resolve differences.”

“Jhinaoui conveyed the message to Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir on the sidelines of the Arab foreign ministers’ meeting in Cairo last Sunday,” the daily said, quoting a well-informed source at the Iranian foreign affairs ministry.

The source said the Tunisian authorities informed the Iranians that the message had been conveyed to Riyadh and that the Saudis would respond to it next week after studying it.

“Tehran chose Tunis to play this role in light of its good relations with both parties and in order to keep the move out of the limelight. If Iran chose Kuwait or Oman for instance, the move would be exposed and could cause further complications that would undermine the negotiations before they could start. The Iranians chose to move in such a way so that if Saudi Arabia agreed to negotiate, it could then be made public,” the source said.

The source refused to divulge details about the message, but said that it “is based on the principle that the interests of Iran, Saudi Arabia and the region require the resolution of differences through negotiations and that escalation will not be in the interest of either side.”

Saudi Arabia severed its diplomatic relations with Iran in January 2016 after Iranians stormed its embassy in Tehran and consulate in the northern city of Mashhad.