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“We never imagined that we would come here.” Saudi Arabia evacuates dozens of Iranians from Sudan

On Saturday, 65 Iranians among about 1,900 people who were evacuated from Sudan, which has been witnessing battles for two weeks, arrived on a Saudi ship to the city of Jeddah, and they are the first group of Iranians transferred by the Kingdom since the evacuation began.

Riyadh has organized several evacuations from Sudan, which have so far included about five thousand people, who are Saudis and citizens of more than 96 nationalities, according to the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The evacuation of the Iranians comes in the midst of the rapprochement between Riyadh and Tehran since the two most prominent regional powers announced an agreement to resume their relations on March 10, after a seven-year break.

Iranian diplomat Hassan Zarnarkar Abarqoi, who was receiving the Iranians at the King Faseel Naval Base in Jeddah, told AFP that the group of 65 Iranians was the “first” to be evacuated from Sudan.

For his part, Iranian Mehrdad Malekzadeh (28 years old), who was among the arrivals from Sudan, said, “Frankly, we never imagined that we would come to Saudi Arabia when we would be evacuated because of our nationality.”

“Fortunately, they really helped us out, put their differences aside and worked together, they saved lives,” added the young man, who has lived since his childhood in Khartoum, where his family ran a lubricating oils company.

Zarnarkar Abarquoi thanked Riyadh for its cooperation, considering it “an indication of consular cooperation between the two countries as well as humanitarian cooperation.”

Battles broke out in Sudan on April 15 between the army, led by Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces, led by Lieutenant General Muhammad Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hamidati, who was an ally of al-Burhan and deputy commander of the army before they became rivals.

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The fighting killed at least 512 people and injured more than four thousand, according to official figures, but the toll is likely to be higher than that, and put the health care system under enormous pressure to deal with an increasing toll of casualties. Many are now facing severe shortages of water, food, medicine and fuel, as well as power and internet cuts.

On Saturday, the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the arrival of 20 Saudi citizens to the city of Jeddah, in addition to 1,866 people of more than 65 nationalities.

The Iranians were received in Jeddah by four Iranian diplomats, bearing in mind that diplomatic missions have not yet been officially opened.

In response to a question in this regard, Zarnarkar Abarquoi said that embassies will reopen their doors “as soon as possible.”

The Saudi-Iranian agreement reached last month under the auspices of China provided for the reopening of the embassies of each country to the other in mid-May.