Saudi Arabia has freed two Iranian fishermen detained by the kingdom’s coast guards last year, the head of the fisheries department of Iran’s Bushehr province says.
“Two fishermen from the province’s Kharg Island, who had been arrested by the Saudi coast guards were released Friday after nine months,” IRNA quoted Ardeshir Yarahmadi as saying.
The release came after consultations between the two countries’ foreign ministries, he said without elaboration.
Tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia has run high in recent years and diplomatic contacts between the two countries have become very rare.
Yarahmadi said the fishermen had been detained after their boats drifted into the Saudi waters in a stormy weather, during which they came under live fire.
In February, Saudi Arabia freed nine Iranian fishermen detained two years ago, but a tenth fisherman was killed in the initial incident.
The Saudi coast guards shot the boat’s owner and took his body into a morgue in the kingdom, according to the victim’s brother.
Iran has said such innocent trespassing by civilian boats is common and has occurred many times by foreign boats in Iranian territorial waters, urging Saudi authorities not to treat them as hostile acts.
Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia worsened after a deadly human crush occurred during Hajj rituals in Mina, near Mecca in September 2015.
Tehran said the incompetence of Saudi officials was to blame for the incident which left 4,700 people dead, including 465 Iranians, according to the country’s officials.
Ties deteriorated further when Riyadh executed prominent Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in January 2016.
Saudi Arabia unilaterally severed its diplomatic ties with Iran after protests in front of its diplomatic premises in the cities of Tehran and Mashhad against Nimr’s execution.