JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said on Saturday the Kingdom was looking to schedule a fifth round of direct talks with Iran despite a “lack of substantive progress” in previous rounds.
Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, said if the 2015 nuclear pact was revived that should be “a starting point, not an end point” in order to address regional concerns, and that Riyadh remained interested in talks with Iran.
“That will indeed require from our neighbors in Iran a serious desire to address the underlying issues that exist ... We hope that there is a serious desire to find a new modus operandi,” he said.
“If we see substantive progress on those files, then yes rapprochement is possible. So far we have not seen that,” he told the conference.
Earlier, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that the chances of reviving the Iran nuclear accord are dwindling and the “moment of truth” has arrived for Tehran’s leadership.
“We now have the chance to reach an agreement that will al- low sanctions to be lifted. But if we do not succeed very quickly, the negotiations risk failing,” Scholz told the conference. “The Iranian leadership has a choice. Now is the moment of truth.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, speaking at the same Munich gathering, said his country was “ready to achieve a good deal at the earliest possible time if the other side makes the needed political decision.”
“We are very serious,” he added, speaking through an interpreter.
Abdollahian also said that Iran was ready to swap prisoners with the US. “We believe prisoner swap is a humanitarian issue ... unrelated to the nuclear accord ... We can do it immediately,” Abdollahian told the conference.
Robert Malley, who leads the indirect US talks with Iran in Vienna, has suggested that securing the nuclear pact is unlikely unless Tehran releases four US citizens Washington says it is holding hostage.
In recent years, Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards have arrested dozens of dual nationals and foreigners, mostly on espionage and security-related charges.
The 2015 Iran nuclear agreement had offered Tehran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program, but the US unilaterally withdrew in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump and reimposed heavy economic sanctions. This in turn prompted Iran to start ramping up its nuclear activities.
The outline of a new deal appears to be on the table in talks that have been held in Vienna since late November between signatories Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia — and the US indirectly.