Riyadh breaks off diplomatic ties with Iran

04 January 2016

Saudi foreign minister gives Iranian diplomats 48 hours to leave the kingdom

Saudi Arabia has broken off diplomatic ties with Iran amid a dispute over Riyadh’s execution of an influential Shia Muslim cleric.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, speaking after Iranian demonstrators stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran, has called for all Iranian diplomats to leave the kingdom within 48 hours.

Al-Jubeir told reporters that Saudi Arabia would not let Iran undermine its security and accused Tehran of planting terrorist cells in the region.

Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others were executed in Saudi Arabia on 1 January with the prominent Shia cleric having been convicted of terror-related offences.

On 3 January, Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran and set fires before being removed by police.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani condemned the embassy attack and urged authorities to capture the protestors, but also spoke out against Al-Nimr’s execution.

“I have no doubt that the Saudi government has damaged its image, more than before, among the countries in the world, in particular [among] Islamic countries, by this unIslamic act,” Rouhani said.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei also condemned the execution and called on the kingdom’s western backers to speak out against the Riyadh’s actions.

Saudi Arabia, which has long had strained relations with Iran, accused Tehran of interfering in regional politics. “Iran’s history is full of negative interference and hostility in Arab issues, and it is always accompanied by destruction,” said Al-Jubeir.

The two countries are involved in a proxy war in Syria with Saudi Arabia supporting Sunni rebel groups against Bashar al-Assad’s Saudi-backed government.

Meanwhile, Riyadh has accused Tehran of providing support for the Houthis in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has led a coalition of Arab countries to try and restore elected president Abd al-Hadi to power.

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