Iran announced on Tuesday the appointment of seasoned diplomat Alireza Enayati as the country’s new ambassador to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, making him the country's first ambassador to the kingdom in seven years.
The announcement is in line with the China-brokered Iran and Saudi Arabia's agreement last March to resume diplomatic relations between the archrivals.
Enayati is someone familiar with the Gulf region. He served as Iran's ambassador to Kuwait from 2014 to 2019. Most recently, he was director general of the Persian Gulf Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also previously served as assistant to the foreign minister, according to the semi-official Fars News Agency.
Enayati was instrumental in steering Iran's negotiations with Saudi Arabia prior to the deal. He hinted at the deal in February, when he said that the Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi had a roadmap developed to expand ties with neighboring countries and achieving this was of the utmost importance for Iran’s foreign policy.
After the deal, he worked to bring a group of Saudi diplomats to Tehran and the holy city of Mashhad last April, Iranian media reported. The purpose of the visit was to reopen Saudi Arabia's embassy and consulate in both places. That same month, the prospective ambassador to Saudi Arabia said Iran’s delegation would be dispatched within weeks and composed of two subgroups — one in Jeddah and the other in the capital, Riyadh — according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
The new ambassador also said at the time that direct passenger flights between Tehran and Riyadh would resume.
During a US Department of State briefing on Monday, department spokesperson Mathew Miller welcomed the appointment.
“We welcome continued diplomatic engagement in the region, but and if any such diplomatic engagements could lead Iran to curtail its malign activities in the region, we would, of course, support that,” Miller said at the briefing.
For years before the March 10 normalization agreement, Saudi Arabia was more aligned with the United States on Iran and looked to the Western country for security. The kingdom and Iran severed ties in 2016 after protesters stormed the Saudi Embassy in Tehran following the execution in Saudi Arabia of a prominent Shiite cleric.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian announced in a tweet at the time that he made an agreement on April 6 with his Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, to reinstate consulates and embassies as well as flights between the two countries.
“We can [now] say that official relations have been activated between Iran and Saudi Arabia,” said Amir-Abdollahian at the time, according to Iran's state-owned Islamic Republic News Agency.
Iran’s embassy in Riyadh reopened its gates for the first time in seven years on April 12, but it is unclear when the Enayati will be headed to the Saudi capital.