Prince Mohammed bin Salman says peace with Iran is possible if Tehran stops backing regional militias
Saudi Arabia wants regional stability and is not opposed to talks with Iran, provided Tehran stops sponsoring regional militias, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on Tuesday night.
Prince Mohammed also said Iran's continued nuclear programme was a serious source of contention.
There is no country in the world that would accept the presence of armed militias on its borders
Mohammed bin Salman
Riyadh is also maintaining strong ties with the US, he said, in a wide-ranging interview with the Liwan Al Mudaifer Show on Tuesday night, which was broadcast on state TV.
Prince Mohammed, who rarely gives TV interviews, described in detail aspects of the country's ambitious Vision 2030 programme of reforms.
He said the success of this programme was partly based on having pragmatic foreign relations.
"It is based on our interests," Prince Mohammed said. "The majority of investments have come through the fact that our interests have aligned with the international community."
Relations with Biden
He said reports of Washington turning its back on Saudi Arabia were exaggerated.
"Relations between states are not 100 per cent on the same page," Prince Mohammed said.
"Our interests align with the Biden administration by more than 90 per cent.
"There is no doubt that there are differences in views between Saudi Arabia and even other Gulf states, but within a single family views differ and that's normal."
He was keen to stress the historic relationship between the two countries.
"The US is a strategic and historic partner to the kingdom," Prince Mohammed said. "This relationship has had a profound impact on both states.
"With every new American administration differences appear and that is normal.
"We are working on strengthening our ties and alliances with our international partners."
He said that the kingdom was not interested in perpetual hostility with Iran, but any thawing of relations would be conditional.
"Iran is a neighbouring state," Prince Mohammed said. "We are seeking to have good relations with Iran.
"We have interests in Iran, we aim to see a prosperous Iran.
"We are working with our partners in the region to overcome our differences with Iran, especially with its support for militias and the development of its nuclear programme."
This month, government and diplomatic sources in Baghdad said Saudi and Iranian government officials held back-channel talks, below Cabinet level, in Baghdad.
Iran and Saudi Arabia denied that the talks took place.
Any momentum is likely to be complicated by Iran's continued sponsorship of proxy militia groups in the region, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq.
Kataib Hezbollah said it would resist efforts by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi to build ties with Riyadh.
At the start of April, Mr Al Kadhimi visited Riyadh and discussed co-operation in investment with the kingdom, including the establishment of a $3bn infrastructure investment fund.
Conflict in Yemen
The conflict in Yemen is also a sticking point in any rapprochement.
"We will not allow any armed militias on our borders," Prince Mohammed said. "The Houthis must come to the negotiating table.
"The Houthis have strong relations with Iran but at the end of the day, they are Yemenis and we are hoping to have a Yemeni solution to end the conflict.
"The Houthis' coup against the internationally recognised government is illegal and Saudi Arabia will not accept any armed militias on its borders.
"There is no country in the world that would accept the presence of armed militias on its borders, such as the Houthis.
"The Houthis must accept the Saudi ceasefire initiative and participate in talks. We hope that they will reach a solution that guarantees the rights for all."
Updated: April 28, 2021 11:13 AM