VIENNA (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia will judge Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi’s government by “the reality on the ground”, the kingdom’s foreign minister said on Tuesday, while adding that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on foreign policy.
Raisi, a hardline judge who secured an expected election victory on Saturday, said on Monday he wanted to improve ties with Gulf Arab neighbours while calling on regional rival Saudi Arabia to immediately halt its intervention in Yemen.
After six years of war, Riyadh has failed to defeat the Houthi movement in Yemen that Iran supports. Saudi Arabia also opposes the Iran nuclear deal that Tehran and Washington are trying to revive in indirect talks.
“From our perspective, foreign policy in Iran is in any case run by the supreme leader and therefore we base our interactions and our approach to Iran on the reality on the ground, and that is what we will judge the new government on, regardless of who is in charge,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud told a news conference with his Austrian counterpart.
He did not say how he wanted that reality to change but he did say he was “very concerned” about unanswered questions on Iran’s nuclear programme, an apparent reference to the U.N. nuclear watchdog seeking explanations on the origin of uranium particles found at undeclared sites in Iran.
Saudi Arabia and Gulf allies continue to pressure Iran over its nuclear programme, which Tehran says is entirely peaceful, and its ballistic missiles. U.S. intelligence agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency believe Iran had a secret, coordinated nuclear weapons programme that it halted in 2003.
In a bid to contain tensions between them, Saudi Arabia and Iran began direct talks in April.
(Reporting by Francois Murphy; editing by Philippa Fletcher)