Saudi Arabia hopes to reach agreement with Iran - Crown Prince

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a session of the Shura Council in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 20, 2019. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS

March 3 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia intends to continue "detailed talks" with Iran in order to reach a satisfactory agreement for both, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said, while stressing the need for a strong nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers at talks in Vienna.

He said in remarks to The Atlantic carried by Saudi state media on Thursday that direct talks with Iran would enable reaching "a good situation and mark a bright future" for the region's Sunni Muslim and Shi'ite powers, which have been locked in a rivalry playing out in conflicts across the Middle East.

"Iran is a neighbour forever, we cannot get rid of them and they cannot get rid of us," the Saudi state news agency cited him as saying.

His comments come as indirect U.S.-Iran talks in Vienna move closer to reviving a 2015 nuclear pact which curbed Tehran's nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief. read more

Riyadh and its Gulf allies had seen the pact as flawed for not addressing their concerns over Iran's ballistic missiles programme and network of proxies, including in Yemen where Saudi Arabia is embroiled in a costly war.

"We do not want to see a weak nuclear deal because the result will be the same in the end," the prince said.

After severing bilateral ties in 2016, Saudi Arabia and Iran launched talks last year hosted by Iraq aimed at containing tensions, which spiked in 2019 after an assault on Saudi oil plants that Riyadh blamed on Iran, a charge Tehran denies.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said last month the kingdom was looking to schedule a fifth round of talks despite a "lack of substantive progress" so far, and urged Tehran to change its behaviour.

Shared concerns over Iran saw Riyadh's Gulf allies the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain forge ties with Israel in 2020 to create a new regional axis at a time of uncertainty over the commitment of key security ally the United States.

"We do not look at Israel as an enemy but as a potential ally in various interests that we could seek to achieve together. But it should solve its problems with the Palestinians," Prince Mohammed was cited as saying by the state news agency.

Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's two holiest sites, has conditioned any eventual normalisation with Israel on addressing the Palestinians' quest for statehood on territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Jon Boyle and Hugh Lawson

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