Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Saudi Arabia has to make “a crucial choice” to either promote “sectarian hate-mongering” by its continued support for extremist groups or promote regional stability.
In a Friday letter to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Zarif said Tehran has “no desire or interest in escalation of tension in our neighborhood” and hopes Riyadh will “heed the cause of reason.”
Relations between the two neighbors have been strained in recent days following the Saudi execution of top Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, which was announced on January 2.
Nimr’s execution was widely censured by Muslims and human rights activists around the globe as well as different governments.
Demonstrations were held, among other places, in front of the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate in the northeastern city of Mashhad to condemn the killing of Sheikh Nimr.
Amid the largely peaceful protests, a group of people scaled the walls of the consulate in Mashhad while incendiary devices were hurled at the embassy in Tehran. Some 50 people were detained over the violation of the diplomatic perimeters.
On January 3, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced his country was cutting diplomatic relations with Iran.
Referring to the transgression of the Saudi diplomatic missions, Zarif said that the Iranian government “unequivocally condemned” the incidents and took immediate steps to protect the buildings and diplomats, launched a probe, and expressed its determination to bring the perpetrators to justice.
The top Iranian diplomat also noted that from the first days of President Hassan Rouhani’s election in June 2013, both he and the president have sent public and private signals to Riyadh about Tehran’s “readiness to engage in dialogue and accommodation to promote regional stability and combat destabilizing extremist violence.”
‘Lethal provocations against Iran’
Elsewhere in his letter, Zarif accused Saudi officials of engaging in “numerous direct and at times lethal provocations against Iran.”
He said the Saudis are trying to prevent or defeat the nuclear agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries in July last year.
Iran and the P5+1 – the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany – finalized the text of the agreement, dubbed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in the Austrian capital Vienna on July 14. Under the JCPOA, limits are put on Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for, among other things, the removal of all nuclear-related economic and financial bans against the Islamic Republic.
The Iranian foreign minister further stressed that Saudi Arabia has been engaged in economic warfare against Iran by drastically reducing the price of oil, the Islamic Republic’s main export.
Saudi Arabia is one of the few producers exporting oil above its quota specified by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and the major driving force behind the existing supply glut.
Zarif also said Saudi fighter jets hit Iranian diplomatic mission in Yemen several times, “killing two local service personnel, injuring a number of Yemeni guards and inflicting damage to the buildings,” adding that the raids occurred on April 24 and September 18 last year and most recently on Thursday.
The mistreatment of Iranian pilgrims in Saudi Arabia is another factor which has fueled “public outrage in Iran” at Saudi officials, Zarif said.
He, however, emphasized that Iran has refused to retaliate or even downgrade diplomatic ties with Riyadh despite these provocations.
The high-ranking official also called for a de-escalation of tensions, saying, “We all need to be united in the face of continued threats posed by extremists against all of us.”