GCC DENOUNCES ‘BARBARIC’ ATTACK ON SAUDI MISSION – Kuwait sharply condemns storming of Saudi Arabia Embassy in Tehran

Smoke rises as Iranian protesters set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran on Jan 3. (AP)
Smoke rises as Iranian protesters set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran on Jan 3. (AP)

KUWAIT CITY, Jan 3, (Agencies): Kuwait sharply condemns attacks by Iranian demonstrators on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, and the Saudi Consulate in Mashhad, an official source at the Foreign Ministry said on Sunday. Iranian authorities should shoulder responsibility for protecting the embassy and ensuring the safety of its staff, the source requested. Such attacks are a flagrant violation of Vienna Convention that requires States to protect and safeguard diplomatic missions and to ensure the safety of their staff, the source reminded.

The source called on Iranian authorities to abide by all international rules and norms which state the respect of States’ sovereignty and non-interference in their internal affairs. In addition, the source reiterated Kuwait’s support to all measures adopted by Saudi Arabia to maintain its security and stability. Kuwait’s position is part of Gulf and Arab support for Saudi Arabia in its fight against terror and terrorist groups.

On its part, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) expressed “full solidarity” with Saudi Arabia in the Kingdom’s efforts to combat terrorism and extremism. In a statement to Emirates News Agency (WAM), UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said that, “recent measures taken by Saudi Arabia are a resounding message against terrorist elements that seek to undermine security and stability.”

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) denounced the “barbaric’ aggression on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and the Consulate in Mashhad, holding the Iranian authorities fully responsible for these “acts of terrorism.” Failure on the side of the Iranian authorities to forestall such aggression constitutes a breach of Iran’s commitments to the protection of diplomatic missions according to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961, and the International Law, GCC Secretary- General Dr Abdullatif Al-Zayani said in a statement on Sunday.

Al-Zayani also denounced Iran’s “hostile and fomenting” statements against Saudi Arabia after the Kingdom carried out “legitimate rulings against terrorists.” He considered the statements “blatant interference in the Kingdom’s internal affairs.” He stressed that the statements prompted the aggression on the Saudi diplomatic mission in Iraq. The GCC member states stand side by side with Kingdom in the condemnation of these “acts of terrorism” that targeted the Saudi diplomatic mission in Iran, and hold the Iranian authorities fully responsible for the attacks, Al-Zayani said. He also reiterated the GCC support to the resolutions the Kingdom had made to “fight all forms of terrorism and track perpetrators of acts of terrorism, and agitators and bring them to justice.

Meanwhile, Jordan strongly condemned the storming of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran yesterday and said it constitutes a flagrant violation of the international law and relevant conventions. State Minister for Media Affairs and Government Spokesperson Mohammad Momani voiced Jordan’s solidarity and support to Saudi Arabia in facing extremism and terrorism. He also condemned the Iranian interference and anti-Saudi Arabia rhetoric following the execution of convicted Saudi persons.

Momani said that diplomatic missions should be protected and respected in line with the international law. Earlier on Saturday, the Saudi Foreign Ministry Saturday summoned Iranian Ambassador in Riyadh to protest against Iran’s “hostile” statements following execution of 47 terror convicts. The foreign ministry expressed “total rejection of the Kingdom to these hostile statements which are blatant interference in the affairs of the Kingdom” of Saudi Arabia, a ministry official was quoted by the official SPA news agency as saying. The ministry affirmed that the Iranian government was fully responsible for the safety of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, the Consulate in Mashhad and their staff against “any hostile acts,” in line with international agreements.

The Saudi Ministry of Interior had announced execution of 47 terrorism convicts, including one Egyptian and another Chadian, in various regions of the Kingdom. The ministry said the convicts had adopted and promoted deviating religious thoughts. They were also found guilty of having affiliations with terrorist organizations, executing criminal schemes such as bombing three residential complexes, bursting into one complex and attacking, with guns and hand-grenades, premises of oil companies in 2004. Bahrain on Saturday reiterated its steadfast support of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to fight terrorism and extremism. In a press statement carried by Bahrain News Agency (BNA), Bahraini Prime Minister Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa said that, “Saudi Arabia leads Arab and Islamic efforts of upholding justice and security.” Recent measures taken by the Kingdom are necessary to maintain the security of the Saudi people, the statement added. Protesters in Iran, angered by the execution by Saudi Arabia of a prominent Shiite cleric, broke into the Saudi embassy in Tehran early Sunday, setting fires and throwing papers from the roof, Iranian media reported. The semiofficial ISNA news agency said the country’s top police official, Gen Hossein Sajedinia, rushed to the scene and police worked to disperse the crowd outraged by the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. Shiite leaders in Iran and elsewhere across the Middle East swiftly condemned Riyadh and warned of a sectarian backlash.

Saudi Arabia’s execution Saturday of 47 prisoners, which also included al- Qaeda detainees, threatened to further enflame Sunni-Shiite tensions in a regional struggle playing out between the Sunni kingdom and its foe Iran, a predominantly Shiite nation. While Saudi Arabia insisted the executions were part of a justified war on terrorism, Iranian politicians warned that the Saudi monarchy would pay a heavy price for the death of al-Nimr.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry summoned the Saudi envoy in Tehran to protest, while the Saudi Foreign Ministry later said it had summoned Iran’s envoy to the kingdom to protest the critical Jihadists kill Iranian reaction to the sheikh’s execution, saying it represented “blatant interference” in its internal affairs. In Tehran, the crowd gathered outside the Saudi embassy and chanted anti-Saudi slogans. Some protesters threw stones and Molotov cocktails at the embassy, setting off a fire in part of the building, Sajedinia told the semi-official Tasnim news agency. “Some of them entered the embassy. Currently, individuals who entered the embassy have been transferred out (of the building).

However, a large crowd is still there in front of the embassy,” Sajedinia told ISNA early Sunday. Some of the protesters broke into the embassy and threw papers off the roof, and police worked to disperse the crowd, Sajedinia told ISNA. He later told Tasnim that police had removed the protesters from the building and arrested some of them. He said the situation outside the embassy “had been defused.” Al-Nimr’s execution promises to open a rancorous new chapter in the ongoing Sunni-Shiite power struggle playing out across the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia and Iran as the primary antagonists. The two regional powers already back opposing sides in civil wars in Yemen and in Syria. Saudi Arabia was also a vocal critic of the recent Iranian agreement with world powers that ends international economic sanctions in exchange for limits on the Iranian nuclear program.

The cleric’s execution could also complicate Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the Shiite-led government in Iraq. The Saudi embassy in Baghdad reopened for the first time in nearly 25 years on Friday. Already on Saturday there were public calls for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to shut the embassy down again. Al-Abadi tweeted Saturday night that he was “shocked and saddened” by al- Nimr’s execution, adding that, “peaceful opposition is a fundamental right.

Repression does not last.” Hundreds of al-Nimr’s supporters also protested in his hometown of al-Qatif in eastern Saudi Arabia, in neighboring Bahrain where police fired tear gas and bird shot, and as far away as northern India. The sheikh’s brother, Mohammed al- Nimr, said in a telephone interview that Saudi authorities told the family they had already buried the body, but didn’t tell them at which cemetery. The family had hoped to bury his body in his hometown. His funeral would likely have attracted thousands of supporters, including large numbers of protesters.

Instead the family planned to hold prayers and accept condolences at the mosque in a village near al-Qatif, where the sheikh used to pray. A spokesman said in a statement that United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was “deeply dismayed” over the Saudi Arabia executions, including that of Al-Nimr. Germany’s Foreign Ministry said the cleric’s execution “strengthens our existing concerns about the growing tensions and the deepening rifts in the region.” State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement that the US is “particularly concerned” that al-Nimr’s execution risked “exacerbating sectarian tensions at a time when they urgently need to be reduced.”

He said the US is calling on Saudi Arabia to ensure fair judicial proceedings and permit peaceful expression of dissent while working with all community leaders to defuse tensions after the executions. Al-Nimr’s death comes 11 months after Saudi Arabia issued a sweeping counterterrorism law after Arab Spring protests shook the region in 2011 and toppled several longtime autocrats. The law codified that the kingdom could prosecute as a terrorist anyone who demands reform, exposes corruption or otherwise engages in dissent or violence against the government.

The convictions of those executed Saturday were issued by Saudi Arabia’s Specialized Criminal Court, established in 2008 to try terrorism cases. The executed al-Qaeda detainees were convicted of launching a spate of attacks against foreigners and security forces a decade ago. To counter Arab Spring rumblings that threatened to spill into eastern Saudi Arabia, the kingdom sent troops in 2011 to crush Shiite protests demanding more political powers from the Sunni-led, fraternal monarchy of Bahrain. More security forces were also deployed that year to contain protests in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich east, where al-Nimr rallied youth who felt disenfranchised and persecuted. A Saudi lawyer in the eastern region told The Associated Press that three other Shiite political detainees were also executed from among the 47.

The lawyer spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. Saudi Arabia says all those executed were convicted of acts of terrorism. Al-Nimr and the three others mentioned had been charged in connection with violence that led to the deaths of several protesters and police officers. Saudi Arabia’s top cleric Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Sheikh defended the executions as in line with Islamic Shariah law. He described the executions as a “mercy to the prisoners” because it would save them from committing more evil acts and prevent chaos.

Islamic scholars around the world hold vastly different views on the application of the death penalty in Shariah law. Saudi Arabia’s judiciary adheres to one of the strictest interpretations, a Sunni Muslim ideology referred to as Wahhabism. Saudi Arabia carries out most executions through beheading and sometimes in public and has drawn comparisons to extremist groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group — which also carry out public beheadings and claim to be implementing Shariah. It strongly rejects the comparisons and points out that it has a judicial appeals process with executions ultimately aimed at combating crime.

The Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah issued a statement calling al- Nimr’s execution an “assassination” and a “ugly crime.” The group added that those who carry the “moral and direct responsibility for this crime are the United States and its allies who give direct protection to the Saudi regime.” In a press conference Saturday, Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki said the executions were carried out inside prisons and not in public, as is sometimes the case. The Interior Ministry, which announced the names of all 47 people executed in a statement, said a royal court order was issued to implement the sentences after all appeals had been exhausted.

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