A Saudi Foreign Ministry official said on Friday that talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran are aimed at reducing regional tensions.
The comments by Ambassador Rayed Krimly, the head of policy planning at the ministry, were the first public confirmation from Riyadh that the two regional powers – that severed ties in 2016 – were holding direct talks.
"As to current Saudi-Iranian talks they aim to explore ways to reduce tensions in the region," Krimly told Reuters.
"We hope they prove successful, but it is too early, and premature, to reach any definitive conclusions. Our evaluation will be based on verifiable deeds, and not proclamations."
Krimly said Saudi policy had been explained "very clearly" by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who last month said that he sought "good" relations with Iran.
"Iran is a neighboring country, and all we aspire for is a good and special relationship with Iran," the crown prince said in a television interview broadcast.
"We do not want Iran's situation to be difficult. On the contrary, we want Iran to grow... and to push the region and the world towards prosperity."
He added Saudi Arabia was working with partners in the region and the world to find solutions to issues with Iran, which he said were Tehran’s regional policy and nuclear and missile programs.
The head of Lebanon's Hezbollah resistance group on Friday welcomed the Baghdad-hosted talks between Tehran and Riyadh, saying they could ease tensions in the troubled region.
"We support all dialogue involving Iran at the international, regional or Arab level. It contributes to calming the region," Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said in a speech broadcast on Lebanese television.
Iraq's President Barham Salih said on Wednesday that Baghdad hosted more than one round of talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The talks, facilitated by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, remained secret until the Financial Times reported that a first meeting was held on April 9.
The two sides are expected to hold further talks this month, according to multiple sources including a Western official familiar with the process.
Iran has welcomed a "change of tone" from Saudi Arabia which it said could clear the way to a new era of cooperation between the rival regional powers.
On Tuesday, Iran’s ambassador to Kuwait hailed as a “positive sign” a change in the tone of the Saudi crown prince.
“The developments at play prove to be a positive sign that regional tensions are easing,” Mohammad Irani told IRNA, referring to Prince Mohammed’s remarks.
The envoy said the remarks are seen as positive even if they have been uttered because a new administration is now in power in the US, or talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna over the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal have made progress.
The initiative came at a time of shifting power dynamics, as US President Joe Biden is seeking to rejoin the nuclear deal that was abandoned by his predecessor Donald Trump.