Iran and Saudi Arabia are among the biggest adversaries in the world. With apparent competing regional and geo-strategic interests and diametrically opposed political ideologies and religious institutions, one could easily make the argument that Saudi and Iran have vastly more pronounced differences than North and South Korea who share a common historic culture and ethnicity.
But the primarily Sunni-Arab Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Shi’a Islamic Republic of Iran are set to have a diplomatic mission visit one another’s capitals to inspect former embassy properties which have been vacant for two years following the formal severing of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi confirmed the visits, stating,
“The Saudi delegation simply comes to visit diplomatic buildings because the buildings have been empty after the two countries broke off relations. At the same time, we will visit our buildings in Saudi Arabia.
This is a bilateral agreement under which Iranian and Saudi delegations will travel to each other to visit their diplomatic sites in Riyadh and Tehran”.
Far from engaging in improved relations, Iran blames a recent ISIS terrorist attack in Tehran on Saudi Arabia , while Iran also accuses the Saudi regime of making it difficult for Iranian pilgrims to travel to Mecca for the annual Hajj.
In spite of this, both countries appear to be respecting the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations which states that while it is lawful to expel diplomats from a country, it is illegal for a receiving country (aka host country) to violate the sovereignty of diplomatic and consular properties.
The inspections which will be conducted by Saudi delegates in Tehran and Iranian delegates in Riyadh, are the legal and proper way to maintain checks on diplomatic facilities at a time of broken-off foreign relations.
This comes as the United Nations certified that Iran is in full compliance with the 2013 so-called Nuclear Deal, in spite of Trump administration allegations to the contrary.
While the US and Russian maintain diplomatic relations, they have taken a step which is far more drastic and manifestly illegal vis-a-vis the actions of Iran and Saudi Arabia. In this sense the US authorities can learn an important lesson in international law from both Iran and Saudi.