00:18 GMT28 February 2020
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Iran has always been ready for holding direct talks with Saudi Arabia or negotiating through intermediaries, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said amid rising tensions between the two neighbors.

    "We have always been open to discussing anything with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is our neighbor … We do not have any choice but to talk to each other. And we have been open to talking to Saudi Arabia either directly or through intermediaries. We have never rejected any intermediary", Zarif told the TRTWorld broadcaster in an interview released late on Friday.

    Zarif also referred to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s plan for achieving peace in the Persian Gulf area through dialogue, dubbed the Hormuz Peace Endeavor or HOPE.

    The foreign minister said that all eight Gulf countries have been encouraged to join the initiative.

    Rouhani unveiled the initiative at the 74th UNGA session in September and expressed readiness to work together with the United Nations on it.

    Tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia as well as in the Gulf region as a whole have heightened in the wake of several attacks on oil tankers there.

    In the most recent incident on Friday, an Iranian-owned tanker had been set on fire by an explosion off the Saudi port of Jeddah.

    In mid-September, Saudi oil facilities were attacked by drones. The attack prompted the Kingdom to sharply decrease its oil production.

    The attack was claimed by the Yemeni Houthi rebel movement, which is fighting against the Yemeni government supported by a Saudi-led coalition.

    Still, Saudi Arabia and its ally, the United States, claimed that the Houthis had no capacities for conducting such an attack and blamed it on Iran.

    Tehran has categorically denied any involvement in the incident.


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