Saudi Arabia, the leading Sunni Muslim power in the Middle East, and Shiite power Iran have long competed for influence in the region.
“We are urging all sides to show some restraint and to not further inflame tensions that are on quite vivid display in the region“. It condemned “in the strongest terms” the attacks which saw protesters firebomb the Saudi embassy in Teheran and its consulate in Masshad.
The execution last week of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr – one of 47 executions carried out by the Saudis on the same day – widened the already deep Shia-Sunni sectarian rift in the region.
While Bahrain has cut off diplomatic ties with Iran, the United Arab Emirates has “downgraded” relations with Tehran.
Earlier, in New York, Saudi UN ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi accused Iran of “interfering in the affairs of other countries, including our own”, and “taking provocative and negative positions”.
“Saudi Arabia can not cover its crime of having cut off the head of a cleric by cutting relations”, he said.
Saudi Arabia signaled on Tuesday its breach in relations with Iran would not affect talks on Syria, another round of which is scheduled in Geneva this month.
The Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition, a top Syrian opposition group, also declared its support for Riyadh and criticized what it said was Iran’s support for militias in Syria and Iraq. “But Saudi Arabia, which thrives on tensions, has used this incident as an excuse to fuel the tensions”, Hossein Jaberi Ansari, Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman, said in televised remarks on Monday.
Iran’s U.N. mission sent a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday defending its actions to protect Saudi diplomatic sites and officials and pledged to continue to take necessary measures to prevent similar occurrences in the future. In Syria, Iran has been backing the Shia regime of Bashar al-Assad, to the chagrin of Saudi Arabia which supports the rebels.
Mr. DuJarrick told reporters that the envoy stressed the need to ensure that the development did not cause a chain of adverse consequences in the region. Even before Nimr’s execution, relations were strained over the two nations’ backing opposing factions in those three countries.
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.