Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a session of the Shura Council in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia November 20, 2019. REUTERS
Saudi Arabia's crown prince has taken a more conciliatory public stance towards Iran, trying to balance long-held animosity with economic considerations and bridge differences with Washington over how to tackle Tehran's regional behaviour.
Tensions between Riyadh and Tehran have festered over the Yemen war, where an Iran-aligned group has increased attacks on Saudi Arabia even as the kingdom tried to lure foreign investment. Strains between the two Gulf powerhouses also grew after a 2019 assault on Saudi oil plants that Riyadh blamed on Iran, a charge Tehran denies.
While reiterating that Riyadh has a problem with Iran's 'negative behaviour', Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in an interview aired late on Tuesday that Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia wanted a good relationship with Shia Iran.
'We do not want for Iran to be in a difficult situation, on the contrary we want Iran to prosper and grow. We have interests in Iran and they have interests in the Kingdom to propel the region and the world to growth and prosperity,' he said.
Saudi and Iranian officials held direct talks this month, six years after cutting diplomatic ties, about Yemen and the 2015 nuclear accord between global powers and Iran, which Riyadh opposed for not tackling Tehran's missile programme and regional proxies.
The kingdom has urged global powers trying to bring both the United States and Iran back into full compliance with the nuclear pact to reach a stronger agreement of longer duration, in talks in Vienna.
The prince also softened his rhetoric towards the Iran-aligned Houthis. 'There is no doubt the Houthis have strong ties with the Iranian regime, but they are Yemenis with Arab instincts,' he said, urging the group to accept a ceasefire deal.
*This story was edited by Ahram Online.