“One does not respond to criticism by cutting off heads”, Rouhani said as he welcomed visiting Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has criticized Saudi Arabia for severing ties with the Islamic Republic and beheading Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shia cleric. He had called for Saudi Arabia’s eastern province, where most Shiite Muslims live, to secede from the rest of the country. Iranian protesters then ransacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran.
“The Iranians, even before the break of diplomatic relations, have not been very supportive, have not been very positive in these peace efforts”, he added.
Bahrain and Sudan yesterday followed suit, while the United Arab Emirates said it was downgrading its diplomatic ties with Iran.
Some were beheaded and others were shot by firing squad. A number of protesters suffered wounds from the birdshot. Other Sunni Gulf Arab states such as Kuwait, Qatar and Oman, did not take any immediate action. More than 40 people have been arrested in connection with the incident.
The UN Security Council late on January 4 issued a statement urging the two sides to “maintain dialogue and take steps to reduce tensions” while condemning the sacking and burning of Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran by demonstrators on January 2.
The concerted campaign by Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia highlights the aggressive stance King Salman and his son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have adopted in confronting Iran, a longtime regional rival.
France asked that the powers “do everything in their power to prevent the exacerbation of sectarian and religious tensions”. In a press conference on Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the USA continues “to be concerned about the need for both the Iranians and the Saudis to de-escalate the situation in the Middle East”.
The UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, rushed to Riyadh in a bid to defuse tensions and held talks with foreign diplomats there yesterday.
De Mistura is counting on broad support to launch peace talks between President Bashar al-Assad’s government and the opposition in Geneva on January 25-the culmination of a three-month effort involving all key players.