Iran has suspended talks with regional rival Saudi Arabia, a website affiliated to Iran’s top security body reported on Sunday, without giving a reason for the decision which comes as a fifth round of negotiations was due to start this week.
A day earlier Saudi Arabia carried out mass executions that activists said included 41 Shias. Meanwhile talks on an Iranian nuclear deal in Vienna have stalled.
“Iran has unilaterally suspended talks with Saudi Arabia,” Nour News said, without providing a reason. It said no specific date had been scheduled for a new round of talks.
The Saudi government media office CIC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Saudi Arabia and Iran, which are locked in proxy conflicts around the region, started direct talks last year to try to contain tensions. Iraq’s foreign minister said on Saturday his country would host a new round on Wednesday.
On Saturday, Saudi Arabia said it had executed 81 men in its biggest mass execution in decades. Activists and rights defenders said 41 were Shias from the eastern Qatif region, which has historically been a flashpoint between the Sunni-dominated government and Shias.Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah condemned in a statement on Sunday the executions as an “ugly crime”.
Saudi Arabia and Iran have backed opposing sides in regional conflicts and political disputes in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq for years, and Saudi Arabia has led an Arab coalition waging war against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen since 2015.
Iraq’s Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein announced on Saturday during a diplomatic forum in Turkey’s Antalya that a fifth round of talks between the two regional rivals will be hosted by Baghdad on Wednesday.
Nour News, affiliated with Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), which has taken point on the talks with the kingdom, said on Sunday that Iran has unilaterally suspended the talks without citing the reason.
Iran’s foreign ministry had previously said on many occasions that the country is ready to resume the talks soon.
Riyadh and Tehran have said they hope the talks can ease tensions but have downplayed expectations of a significant breakthrough.
The two countries ended diplomatic ties in 2016 when Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran was stormed by protesters following the execution of a prominent Shia religious leader by the Sunni-majority kingdom.
Riyadh has said little progress has been made in the direct talks, which have focused largely on Yemen. Houthi authorities said on Saturday two Yemeni “prisoners of war” were among those executed by Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal face the prospect of collapse after a last-minute Russian demand forced world powers to pause negotiations for an undetermined time despite having a largely completed text.
Earlier this year, Iran said three of its diplomats were accepted into Saudi Arabia after several years to once more set up a representative office at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Jeddah.
Sources: Al Jazeera, Dawn News, Reuters