World Leaders Call for deescalation between Saudis and Iranians

Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran [AFP]
Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran [AFP]

The New Arab

The US, Russia and a number of European states called for calm on Monday after Saudi Arabia severed ties with Iran over the storming of its diplomatic missions in Iran following the execution of Shia opposition cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

Iran has expressed “regret” over two attacks on Saudi Arabian diplomatic missions and says it will spare no effort in arresting and prosecuting those responsible.

Iran’s UN envoy Gholamali Khoshroo said in a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Monday that the Islamic Republic “will take necessary measures to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents in the future.”

Saudi Arabia severed ties with Iran on Sunday after protesters attacked its embassy in Tehran and consulate in Mashad. The violence stems from Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent opposition Shia cleric over the weekend, which predominantly Shia Iran has denounced.

Khoshroo said more than 40 protesters at the embassy have been arrested and handed over to judicial authorities and that investigators are seeking other possible perpetrators.

The US: “show restraint”

The White House urged Saudi Arabia and Iran to not let their diplomatic spat derail talks to end Syria’s conflict.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says the US is concerned about the situation and wants Saudi Arabia and Iran to show restraint. He urged the two cuntries not to inflame tensions or further sectarian conflict.

Earnest said it’s in the interests of Iran and Saudi Arabia to continue working toward a political solution for Syria. Both countries have been participating in the talks in Vienna.

The White House says President Barack Obama has not spoken with the leaders of either country since Saudi Arabia started scaling back diplomatic ties with Iran.

A US official said that US secretary of State, John Kerry had called Iranian and Saudi ministers and urged for calm.

Russia offers mediation

Russia is ready to serve as an intermediary to resolve the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the foreign ministry said Monday.

“We ask… Tehran, Riyadh and other Gulf countries to show restraint,” the ministry said in a statement, as it called on Saudi Arabia and Iran to take “the path of dialogue”.

“Russia is ready to support such efforts,” the statement said, adding that “Moscow is deeply concerned by the latest escalation of the situation in the Middle East caused by the major regional powers, Saudi Arabia and Iran.”

Earlier, a foreign ministry source had told AFP that “Russia is ready to serve as an intermediary between Riyadh and Tehran”.

Another unnamed Russian diplomatic source quoted by TASS news agency said Moscow was ready to host the Saudi and Iranian foreign ministers – Adel al-Jubeir and Mohammad Javad Zarif – for talks.

“If our partners Saudi Arabia and Iran show they are ready and willing (to meet), our initiative will remain on the table,” the source said.

“Russia has always been calling for understanding between Sunni and Shia, and the unity of the Islamic world,” they added.
Turkey: “Middle East like a powder keg”

Turkey has urged both Saudi Arabia and Iran to ease tensions, saying the Middle East region is “already like a powder keg” and cannot withstand a new crisis.

Briefing reporters after a Cabinet meeting on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said both Saudi Arabia and Iran would suffer from the “hostile attitudes” and urged them to put tensions behind them.

Kurtulmus criticized both the attacks on Saudi missions in Iran and Riyadh’s execution of the cleric.

He said: “Enough is enough. (The region) is in need of peace and calm. Everyone must act with caution.”

UN: “Avoid adding fuel to the fire”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also urged Saudi Arabia and Iran to support peace efforts in Syria and Yemen and avoid escalating tensions.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Ban delivered this message in phone calls to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday and to Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir on Monday.

Dujarric said the UN chief called for all political and religious leaders in the region “to avoid adding fuel to the fire.”

The UN envoy for Syria is heading to Saudi Arabia and Iran to gauge the impact of the rupture in relations between the two longtime regional rivals on efforts to end the Syrian conflict.

UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said that Staffan de Mistura is en route to Riyadh on Monday and will visit Tehran later this week.

Haq said de Mistura “hopes that the adverse consequences of the tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran do not affect the peace process with the Syrians.”

Iran, a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and Saudi Arabia, a backer of the opposition, have participated in three rounds of international talks aimed at finding a political solution to the conflict. De Mistura has set a 25 January target date for a fourth round of talks.

A resolution adopted last month by the UN Security Council calls on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to start formal negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition on a political transition process “with a target of early January 2016.”

Germany: “Improve relations”

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday that Germany appeals “to both countries, Saudi Arabia and Iran, to use all possibilities to improve their bilateral relations.”

Seibert told reporters in Berlin on Monday that “relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran are of fundamental importance for solving the crises in Syria and Yemen, and for the stability of the entire region.”

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Middle East owed the world more cooperation in trying to overcome regional crises.

Martin Schaefer said that “from point of view of Foreign Minister (Frank-Walter) Steinmeier both Saudi and Iran, too, are obliged to contribute to solving the crises.”

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