Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says the Islamic Republic’s top priority is to promote relations with its neighboring countries.
Iran’s policy is to have ties with other countries “based on mutual respect and rationality,” Zarif told reporters on the sidelines of a cabinet session on Wednesday.
“That does not mean we have problems in our relations with our neighbors. On the contrary, we underscore foreign policy. Our priority has always been [our] neighbors,” Zarif said, adding that the next Iranian administration will pursue the same policy.
He said Iran would benefit from a powerful region, whose security is guaranteed without reliance on outsiders.
Asked about a handshake with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on the sidelines of a Tuesday meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey, Zarif described the encounter as a common diplomatic courtesy.
“Although the Islamic Republic opposes many policies of the Saudi government, our policy has always been… to have good relations with our neighbors,” Zarif said.
“If our neighbors… do not seek tension in the region, they will surely find Iran as a good partner and a country whose interests lie in the stability and security of the region,” he added.
Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia further escalated after the kingdom executed a prominent Shia cleric in January 2016.
The execution triggered angry protests in many countries, including Iran. Protesters attacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad. Riyadh cut diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic in the same month.
Relations between the two countries first soured after a deadly human crush during Hajj rituals in Mina, near Mecca, in September 2015, which claimed the lives of hundreds of Iranian pilgrims among others.
Iran blamed the incompetence of Saudi officials for the incident.