Special to WorldTribune.com
The Sunni Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf have expressed support for Saudi Arabia in its diplomatic row with Iran, condemning what they described as Iranian interference in Riyadh’s internal affairs.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia accused Iran of sponsoring terrorism and warned that the kingdom was considering new steps against Teheran.
The six foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) held an extraordinary meeting in Riyadh on Jan. 9 to discuss growing tensions between Saudi Arabia and predominantly Shi’ite Iran.
The GCC groups Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), Qatar, Oman, and Saudi Arabia.
In a statement, the six countries “strongly denounced” the sacking of the Saudi diplomatic missions in Tehran by demonstrators angered over its execution of prominent Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.
They also stated that Tehran “carries the responsibility for these terrorist acts.”
The statement criticized “Iranian interference” in Saudi Arabia’s affairs over its denunciation of Nimr’s execution a week ago, adding that Tehran’s criticism had “directly incited the aggressions targeting Saudi diplomatic missions.”
The GCC “totally supports” decisions taken by Saudi Arabia to combat terrorism and has “total confidence in the independence and integrity of Saudi justice,” the statement added.
Also on Jan. 9, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the kingdom was considering “additional measures” if its regional rival, Iran, continues with its “aggression.”
“Iran is used to interfering in affairs of its neighbors and sponsoring terrorism,” Jubeir told a press conference.
He did not elaborate on what the new measures against Tehran could be.
Saudi Arabia executed Nimr on Jan. 2 for terrorism, triggering outrage among Shi’a across the Middle East and elsewhere.
Nimr, a highly respected cleric in Saudi Arabia’s Shi’ite community, was behind demonstrations calling for better treatment of the minority.
Iranian officials fiery criticized the kingdom’s authorities for the execution, and an Iranian mob stormed and ransacked the Saudi Embassy and consulate in Tehran in protest.
In response to the Iran incidents, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain severed diplomatic relations with Tehran.
Kuwait and Qatar recalled their ambassadors, and the U.A.E. downgraded its ties.
Meanwhile, Tehran cut all commercial ties with Riyadh.
Iran has said Saudi Arabia is to blame for the diplomatic crisis and accused the kingdom of “sectarian hate-mongering.”
In a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Jan. 8, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Saudi Arabia must choose between promoting extremism and fostering good relations in the Middle East.
Zarif insisted Teheran has “no desire or interest in escalation of tension in our neighborhood” and hopes Saudi Arabia will “heed the cause of reason.”
Arab League foreign ministers are due to meet in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on Jan. 10 to discuss the crisis.
Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, said his country had asked the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, of which Iran is a member, to convene an extraordinary meeting.