The US Secretary of State John Kerry talked with officials from Saudi Arabia and Iran Tuesday to encourage talks to resolve the recent diplomatic tensions stemming from the Saudi kingdom’s execution of the prominent Shi’a sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr on Saturday.
Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties with Iran after attacks on both the Saudi embassy in Tehran and the Saudi consulate in Mashhad.
There are concerns that the mounting diplomatic tension may hinder forth going peace negotiations addressing the five-year conflict in Syrian that has spilled over into other countries in the region.
Iran is reported to be backing the Syrian regime of President Bashar Al-Assad while Saudi Arabia is supporting what it calls “the moderate opposition”.
In his calls with the Saudi deputy crown prince and both foreign ministries of Iran and Saudi Arabia, Secretary Kerry emphasised that the current political tension must not impede progress regarding finding a solution to the Syrian civil war.
US State Department spokesman John Kirby stressed that the US does not want anything to hinder the forthcoming Geneva talks, to commence on 25 January, bringing together representatives of the Syrian regime and the opposition.
Saudi Arabia held a meeting in early December in Riyadh to attempt to unify the Syrian opposition.
In his meeting with the UN envoy to Syria Stephan De Mistora, Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubair contended that the recent tensions will not affect the talks concerning the Syrian conflict.
“The recent tensions that have impacted the region negatively will not affect the operations that the UN carries out alongside the international community to achieve a political solution in Geneva soon,” Al Jubair said.
However, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian provided a different characterisation of the effect of the recent tensions. In comments made to an Iranian news agency, Amir Abdollahian contended that deteriorating Iranian-Saudi relation will have an effect on the diplomatic effects in the Syrian conflict. However, he reaffirmed Iranian commitment to participating in Geneva talks.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Al-Jaafari said Wednesday in a joint-press conference with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif that Iraq will attempt to mitigate the tension between the geopolitical powers.
Zarif contended that it is the Saudi side that is fueling the regional tensions while Iran is trying to promote calm.
Saudi UN Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi said tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran would not affect peace efforts in Syria and Yemen and that Riyadh would not boycott the Geneva talks to discuss Syria on 25 January.
According to Al-Mouallimi, Iran did not support peace negotiations in Syria. “Iranians, even before severing ties, were not supporters of the peace efforts in Syria. I do not think [Saudi Arabia’s decision to sever] ties would affect them,” he said.
Four armed men have set fire to a bus carrying Saudi Aramco Oil Company workers in the Eastern province where the Saudi Shi’a are concentrated. Aramco said in a statement that none of the company’s employees was injured.
The Saudi official agency said the bus was stopped in the city of Qatif, the hometown of the Nimr Al-Nimr who was executed along with 46 others accused of terrorism according to Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, the Islamic State (IS) threatened to break into Saudi Arabian prisons where those accused of being militants are being detained.
Some 43 of the executed persons have putative affiliations with Al-Qaeda.
An article published in a magazine claimed to be produced by the terror group spoke about both Al-Ha’ir and Tarfiya prisons.
Last July, a suicide bomber attacked Al-Hair prison near Riyadh. It is believed that the bomber was associated with IS.
IS and Al Qaeda are thought to be enemies as they have issued mutual condemnation but they have unified against Saudi Arabia, which has declared them terrorist groups and locked up thousands of their supporters.
The Arab League announced Monday that an urgent meeting would be held Sunday with the foreign ministers of both countries at the request of Saudi Arabia to discuss Iranian interference in Saudi Arabia’s internal affairs.
Deputy Secretary General of the Arab League Ahmed Bin Helly said he received an official memo from the Saudi permanent delegation to the Arab League asking for an urgent meeting to condemn Iranian violations against its diplomatic mission in Tehran, according to the Egyptian official news agency MENA.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) announced Tuesday that an urgent meeting would be held in Riyadh to discuss developments between Saudi Arabia and Iran.