World urges Saudi Arabia, Iran to observe restraint

UNITED NATIONS/ WASHINGTON: The world community on Monday urged Saudi Arabia and Iran to observe restraint after tension over the execution of a prominent cleric Nimr Al-Nimr along with 46 others by the Saudi government.


The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, told the Saudi foreign minister on Monday that Riyadh’s decision to break off diplomatic ties with Iran was extremely troubling, a United Nations spokesman said.

“The secretary-general reiterated that the attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran was deplorable, but added that the announcement of a break in Saudi diplomatic relations with Tehran was deeply worrying,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

Dujarric said Ban said this to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir in a telephone call. Ban also spoke with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday, he added.

“The secretary-general urged both foreign ministers to avoid any actions that could further exacerbate the situation between the two countries and in the region as a whole,” Dujarric said.

“He stressed the importance of continued constructive engagement by both countries in the interest of the region and beyond,” he said.The White House also urged Saudi Arabia and Iran to show restraint in the crisis spurred by the execution of the senior cleric by Saudi Arabia.

“We do continue to be concerned about the need for both the Iranians and the Saudis to de-escalate the situation. We are urging all sides to show some restraint and to not further inflame tensions that are on quite vivid display in the region,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a daily news briefing.

He said US Secretary of State John Kerry had been in touch with his Iranian counterpart and US diplomatic officials had been in contact with Saudi officials to convey the message.Russia said it is ready to act as an intermediary to help settle the dispute between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Russian news agencies reported on Monday.

“As friends we would be ready to play, if it is demanded, an intermediary role in settling the existing contradictions and any new ones that arise between these two countries,” RIA cited a source as saying.China said it was concerned about the prospect of an intensification of conflict in the Middle East.

“Like the international community, China is highly concerned about the developments and expresses concern that the relevant event may intensify conflict in the region,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing, referring to the escalation in tension.

The safety and dignity of diplomatic personnel should be guaranteed, Hua said.“We hope the relevant parties can maintain calm and restraint, properly resolve their differences through dialogue and consultation and jointly safeguard regional peace and stability,” she said.

France also urged Saudi Arabia and Iran to reduce tensions. “We need to be vigilant about what is happening between Saudi Arabia and Iran,” government spokesman Stephane Le Foll told reporters. “France calls on each side to reduce tensions.”

Germany called on Saudi Arabia and Iran to talk to each other and use all options open to them to improve their bilateral relations. “We urge both countries to engage in dialogue,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a regular news conference.

Meanwhile, Bahrain announced on Monday it was cutting diplomatic ties with Iran, state news agency BNA reported, a day after Saudi Arabia also severed relations with Tehran.

“Bahrain decided to break off diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and calls upon all members of the mission to leave the kingdom within 48 hours,” BNA said.Sudan also said it was cutting diplomatic ties with Iran.

“In response to the barbaric attacks on the Saudi Arabian embassy in Tehran and its consulate in Mashhad the government of Sudan announces the immediate severing of ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran,” a Foreign Ministry statement said.

In Iraq, at least two mosques were attacked and two people killed in apparent retaliation for the execution of the cleric in Saudi Arabia, officials and police said on Monday.

Iraqis protesting the Jan 2 execution of Nimr al-Nimr separately marched in Baghdad and in southern cities, calling for a boycott of Saudi products and severing ties with the kingdom.

Iraq’s Interior Ministry confirmed the attacks on mosques late Sunday in Hilla, around 100 kms south of Baghdad.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi blamed them on “Daesh and those who are similar to them,” without further explanation.

He ordered provincial authorities “to chase the criminal gangs” who attacked the mosques.Earlier, Saudi Arabia said it would end air traffic and trade links with Iran 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. 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 Qods Force and their Revolutionary Guards into Syria,” he said.

Iranian pilgrims would still be welcome to visit holiest sites in Makkah and Medina in 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”.

Iran said Saudi Arabia used the attack on its embassy in Tehran as a pretext to fuel tensions.Iran was committed to protecting its foreign diplomatic missions, the foreign ministry said.

“Iran has acted in accordance with its (diplomatic) obligations to control the broad wave of popular emotion that arose,” foreign ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari said in televised remarks.

“Saudi Arabia benefits and thrives on prolonging tensions. (It) has used this incident as an excuse to fuel the tensions,” he alleged.

Meanwhile, the supreme leader of the Shia Ulema Board (SUB) and Tehreek Nifaz Fiqa Jaffria (TNFJ) Agha Syed Hamid Ali Shah Moosvi pleaded for restoration of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, warning the imperialist forces could exploit the tense situation between the two nations.

Moosvi said the attack on Saudi Embassy in Iran is condemnable, as it is violation of the Geneva Convention and diplomatic norms.Moosvi maintained that it was incumbent upon the Saudi government to also set free political opponents and allow the freedom of expression.