Davos 2023: Saudi FM says Riyadh trying to find path to dialogue with Iran

Arab Gulf Summit in Riyadh

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) - Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud said the kingdom was trying to find a path to dialogue with Iran as the best way to resolve differences.

He said a decision by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states to focus on their economies and development was a "strong signal to Iran and others in the region that there is a pathway beyond traditional arguments and disputes towards joint prosperity".

The Middle East's leading Sunni Muslim and Shi'ite powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran have for years vied for influence in a rivalry that has played out across the region in events such as the conflicts in Yemen and Syria and in Lebanon.

Riyadh and Tehran cut ties in 2016 but officials from the two countries have held five rounds of direct talks hosted by Iraq since last year, the last of which was in April, without achieving any diplomatic breakthroughs.

Gulf Arab states are concerned about Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and network of regional proxies, but want to contain tensions as they focus on economic priorities.

The Saudi foreign minister, speaking at a panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, also said there was a need to find a route to ending the Russia-Ukraine conflict, otherwise global uncertainty would continue.

"This is complex question, but we will have to talk about how we find a pathway to ending the conflict," he said.

Prince Faisal said attention on the Middle East was also needed, citing Syria as well as regional concerns over "provocative policies" by Israel's new government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu in an alliance with ultra-nationalists.

Netanyahu has pledged to pursue formal Israeli ties with Riyadh to build on normalisation pacts signed with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in 2020 under his leadership.

Gulf powerhouse Saudi Arabia blessed the U.S.-brokered pacts but stopped short of formally recognising Israel in the absence of a resolution to Palestinian statehood goals.

(Reporting by Maha El Dahan; writing by Ghaida Ghantous; editing by Mark Heinrich)