Saudi, Iranian experts hold security dialogue in Amman

Saudi, Iranian experts hold security dialogue in Amman
3 min read
13 December, 2021
Saudi and Iranian diplomats and academics met in Amman to discuss technical aspects of the nuclear programme.
The meetings were aimed at resolving tensions, building trust and reaching a common understanding of technical aspects of the nuclear program and missile technology [Getty]

A joint Saudi-Iranian conference concluded on Monday in Amman, where diplomats and academics met behind closed doors to discuss technical aspects of Iran's nuclear programme and missile technology, which has caused a major stand-off with the West.

Saudi and Iranian officials and academics met for the two-day conference under Jordanian supervision at the Arab Institute for Security Studies (AISS). The dialogue did not address political issues, instead focused on "security issues from a technical perspective, most importantly missile launches and the nuclear programme",  Dr. Ayman Khalil, the Secretary-General of the AISS told The New Arab.

"Specifically, when it comes to the nuclear issues they discussed perceptions of having a common approach to the nuclear fuel cycle, a common approach to coordination - and when it comes to missile launches, we started the basis for a Missiles Capabilities Protocol," Khalil said.

According to Khalil, future meetings are "highly possible", and would probably occur in the first half of 2022. These meetings would focus on technical rather than political issues. He added that a set of technical recommendations from the conference would be released in the next month.

Khalil said that the conference in Amman was also aimed at "resolving tensions and building trust".

Having a shared technical understanding is a pre-requisite to any future political understandings, he added.

"There has to be some degree of transparency and exchange of ideas and information," Khalil he said.

The conference coincided with Iran's talks with world powers in Vienna to try to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which the US unilaterally withdrew from in 2018. So far, western powers and Iran have been at odds over their competing visions of a final deal.

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Iran is seeking a full lifting of sanctions imposed on the country since 2018, while the US wants to restore the original terms of the 2015 deal. The original bargain gave some sanctions relief in return for monitoring mechanisms to ensure that Iran limited the development of its nuclear program.

The new Iranian government, led by President Ebrahim Raisi, is seeking more favourable terms than its predecessor. It is also suspicious that the US will once again renege on the agreement in the future.

These types of meetings between Iran and Saudi Arabia are rare, as the two countries have long been regional arch-rivals. The two find themselves on opposing sides in multiple theatres, such as Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon.

A recent diplomatic blockade led by Saudi Arabia against Lebanon was largely seen as the former hitting back at Iran for its regional involvement.

In recent months, however, Riyadh and Tehran have signalled a renewed willingness to repair their relationship, though little progress is yet to be seen. The two countries met in Baghdad in September, though details on the meeting are scarce.

The Saudi embassy in Amman did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The New Arab.