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Saudi Arabia Wants 'Good And Special' Relationship With Iran, Crown Prince Says

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman

Saudi Arabia's crown prince struck a softer tone toward Iran in a television interview broadcast late on April 27 in which he also said that Saudi Arabia and the Biden administration agreed on most issues of mutual concern.

"Iran is a neighboring country, and all we aspire for is a good and special relationship with Iran," Saudi Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman said.

"We do not want Iran's situation to be difficult. On the contrary, we want Iran to grow...and to push the region and the world towards prosperity."

Riyadh has been working with regional and global partners to find solutions to Tehran's "negative behavior," he added.

The two countries cut ties in 2016 after Iranian protesters attacked Saudi diplomatic missions following the kingdom's execution of a revered Shi'ite cleric. They also back opposite sides in the war in Yemen, where a coalition led by Saudi Arabia is battling the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels.

Prince Salman’s comments were a change in tone from previous interviews in which he lashed out at Tehran, accusing it of fueling regional insecurity.

The prince did not mention any negotiations with Tehran, but there have been reports of secret direct talks taking place this month in Baghdad between the two countries.

Sources quoted by news agencies have confirmed the talks, but neither Saudi Arabia nor Iran have publicly confirmed or denied the talks.

The diplomacy comes amid an effort to revive the 2015 nuclear deal that the United States withdrew from in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump.

The prince said Saudi Arabia and the Biden administration agree on 90 percent of issues of mutual concern and disagree on the rest, but he did not elaborate.

The prince's standing with Washington remains damaged by the 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul after the Saudi journalist grew critical of the crown prince.

U.S. intelligence concluded that the crown prince had approved an operation to capture or kill Khashoggi, but Saudi officials had said his death was the result of a "rogue operation" and was not state sanctioned.

U.S. President Joe Biden said in an interview in March that he had "made it clear" to the prince’s father, 85-year-old King Salman bin Abdulaziz, "that things were going to change" in the relationship, though he also reaffirmed the decades-old alliance of their two countries.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
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