OIC Summit: Saudi Arabia/Iran signs of detente

King Abdallah calls for dialogue, analysts cautiously optimistic

16 August, 17:29

(by Alessandra Antonelli)(ANSAMed) - DUBAI, AUGUST 16 - The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit that suspended Syria was also the scene of an attempted rapprochement between the two major Gulf powers, Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shi'ite Iran, who back opposite sides in the conflict.

The Saudi monarchy, which hosted the Mecca summit, explicitly supports the Syrian opposition, while Iran backs the regime of fellow Shi'ite, President Bashar al-Assad.

Saudi Arabia made two gestures of detente, first by inviting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the 57-member summit, then by seating him on Saudi King Abdhallah Abel Aziz bin Saud's left side (with Qatari Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani on his right.) This gesture was aimed at putting old grievances aside in the quest for a resolution to the Syrian crisis, Saudi political analysts said. ''The Islamic nation is being dismembered, and this is causing bloodbaths among its peoples,'' said King Abdallah in his keynote speech, in which he suggested founding a center for dialogue between Islamic sects.

Syria dominated the agenda, in a context of rising tensions between Iran and the oil monarchies, and sabre-rattling from Israel. On the table were Iran's nuclear ambitions, its alleged interference in unrest in Bahrein - where a Sunni monarchy rules a majority Shi'ite population - and in eastern Saudi Arabia, also a Shi'ite majority region. Iran and the United Arab Emirates also voiced opposing claims to three small islands, strategically placed at the entrance to the Strait of Hormuz. Iran reciprocated in the detente department, officially inviting Saudi Arabia to the summit of non-aligned nations to be held in Tehran on August 26. And while some analysts highlighted the signs of detente, others warned that appearances can be deceiving. There is a difference between genuine rapprochement and tactical maneuvering, and the divergences between Iran and the rest of the oil-producing block remain deep, analysts said.



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