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Saturday , December 7 2019

Saudi cuts diplomatic ties with Tehran amid spiralling tension – BAHRAIN, SUDAN FOLLOW SUIT; UAE DOWNGRADES

KUWAIT CITY, Jan 4, (Agencies): The hostile comments by Iranian officials towards the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the mob attacks on Saudi diplomatic facilities in Iran in the wake of the execution of 47 terror convicts in the Kingdom, prompted the Kingdom to sever its diplomatic relations with Iran on Sunday.

The move came in response to Iran’s disregard of the international diplomatic norms, and its repeated attacks on diplomatic missions it hosts, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said in a press conference in Riyadh Sunday. “Iran has a history filled with attacks on its foreign embassies and diplomatic missions without taking any action to prevent them, and instead, assisting further attacks through provocative statements,” he said. “These attacks come after aggressive statements made by the Iranian regime which create a blatant and clear incitement to their launch,” minister Al- Jubeir added. He regarded the attacks as falling under “Iran’s familiar historic policies, which aim to destabilize the region.” Al-Jubeir also accused Iran of “providing safe shelter to al-Qaeda terrorists and the perpetrators of the 1996 Al-Khobar bombings in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern region.”

He added that Iran also assists the smuggling of weapons, continuously intervenes in internal Arab affairs and causes sedition and destruction in the region. Saudi Arabia demanded that Iranian diplomatic mission staff depart the country within 48 hours less than a day after protesters attacked two of its missions in Tehran and Mashhad late Saturday.

In Tehran, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has expressed his rejection of last night’s attack on Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad by a group of protesters, demanding that the identities of those responsible be revealed. “The attacks and harm caused to Saudi Arabia’s embassy and consulate by a group of people is unjustifiable under any circumstances, as the mission is under the protection of the Islamic Republic (of Iran),” he said. The attacks also triggered angry reactions from Arab countries as well as Arab and Islamic organizations.

In Kuwait an official of the Foreign Ministry said his country sharply condemns attacks by Iranian demonstrators on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, and the Saudi Consulate in Mashhad. Iranian authorities should shoulder responsibility for protecting the embassy and ensuring the safety of its staff, the source stressed. 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, the source added. In Abu-Dhabi the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Iranian Ambassador to the UAE Mohammad Reza Fayyad, and handed him a written note of protest over “Iran’s interference in Saudi Arabia’s internal affairs.”

The note also included the UAE’s protest against attacks on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and Saudi Consulate in Mashhad, the Emirate News Agency (WAM) reported. “These acts represent a violation of international charters and norms,” the WAM quoted the ministry as saying. In Jeddah the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) condemned the separate attacks by mobs of protesters that targeted the Saudi embassy and consulate in Iran.

The Secretariat of OIC demanded, in a statement, abiding by the Vienna 1961 Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the International Law which call for respecting accredited diplomatic missions in any country. It also stressed its support for Saudi Arabia’s efforts in combating terrorism and extremism following the Kingdom’s execution of 47 people, mostly Saudi nationals, on terror-related charges. The Secretariat also affirmed its adherence to the OIC charter rejecting any interference into internal affairs of any country. It underlined the urgency of boosting cooperation ties among OIC member states and promoting efforts in order to face common challenges, combat terrorism and extremism, and avoid sectarian division, the statement pointed out.

Saudi Arabia rallied Sunni allies to its side in a growing diplomatic row with Iran on Monday, deepening a sectarian split across the Middle East following the kingdom’s execution of a prominent Shi’ite cleric. Bahrain and Sudan cut all ties with Iran, following Riyadh’s example the previous day.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Reuters Riyadh would also halt air traffic and commercial relations between the rival powers.

He blamed Iran’s “aggressive policies” for the diplomatic action, alluding to years of tension that spilled over on Saturday night when Iranian protesters stormed the kingdom’s embassy in Tehran. Nevertheless, analysts said fears of a sectarian rupture across the Middle East were premature, and the break in relations could be more a symptom of existing strains than evidence of new ones. “The fact that the UAE was unwilling to cut off ties with Iran completely, despite the closeness of its relations with Saudi Arabia, shows the difficulty that the Saudis will have in trying to isolate Iran,” said Julien Barnes-Dacey, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

“The downgrading of ties is not fundamentally a question of responding to executions and the storming of an embassy … (but rather) a function of a much deeper conflict between the two states,” he added.

Saudi Arabia widened its rift with Iran on Monday, saying it would end air traffic and trade links with the Islamic republic and demanding that Tehran must “act like a normal country” before it would restore severed diplomatic relations. Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Reuters in an interview that Tehran was responsible for rising tensions after the kingdom executed Shi’ite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr on Saturday, describing him as a terrorist. Insisting Riyadh would react to “Iranian aggression”, Jubeir accused Tehran of despatching fighters to Arab countries and plotting attacks inside the kingdom and its Gulf neighbours. “There is no escalation on the part of Saudi Arabia. Our moves are all reactive. It is the Iranians who went into Lebanon. It is the Iranians who sent their Quds Force and their Revolutionary Guards into Syria,” he said.

The execution of Nimr provoked protests among Shi’ites across the region and Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran, setting fires and causing damage, prompting Riyadh to cut ties and inflaming an already heated rivalry. Iranian pilgrims would still be welcome to visit Islam’s holiest sites in Makkah and Madinah in western Saudi Arabia, either for the annual haj or at other times of year on the umrah pilgrimage, he said. However, Jubeir said Saudi Arabia had been right to execute Nimr, whom he accused of “agitating, organising cells, providing them with weapons and money”.

After listing the crimes of 43 al-Qaeda members also put to death on Saturday alongside four Shi’ites, Jubeir said of the executions: “We should be applauded for this, not criticised.” US Secretary of State John Kerry called the Iranian and Saudi Arabian foreign ministers on Monday to urge calm after the dramatic breakdown of relations between Tehran and Riyadh. Speaking on condition of anonymity, US officials said he reached out to his counterparts Mohammad Javad Zarif and Adel Al-Jubeir as the crisis triggered by the Saudi execution of a Shiite cleric deepens. “We are urging calm and de-escalation.

The situation needs to be calmed,” one official told AFP. The United States itself has no formal diplomatic relations with Iran, but has been developing a closer working relationship since signing a deal to limit Tehran’s nuclear ambitions in July last year. Washington is keen to avoid an escalation in tensions with Iran as it works to oversee implementation of that deal and also as it encourages Tehran to play a role in peace talks to end the Syria civil war.

The United States is traditionally a much closer partner to Saudi Arabia, but was angered last week when Riyadh chose to begin 2016 with a mass execution of prisoners, including a respected Shiite cleric accused of inciting protests. The Arab Interior Ministers’ Council on Monday voiced “full support” to the measures taken by Saudi Arabia to counter terrorism and guarantee security of citizens, and all Arab people. In a statement, the Council’s General Secretariat commended Riyadh’s efforts to bolster security and peace in the Arab World, the region and the world at large. In addition, it reasserted “categorical rejection” of any external attempt that might target the security of any Arab country. In addition, it firmly condemned the aggression on the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran, considering it “provocations, and violations of all international laws and norms of diplomacy.” Saudi Arabia on Sunday severed diplomatic relations with Iran after protesters stormed the Kingdom’s embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad.

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