Yemen war will end up harming Riyadh, Iran minister says

A Houthi militant stands by the ruins of a market that was destroyed by recent Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen's north-western city of Saada on May 24, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A Houthi militant stands by the ruins of a market that was destroyed by recent Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen's north-western city of Saada on May 24, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

KUWAIT (REUTERS) - Iran's foreign minister urged rival Saudi Arabia to end its military campaign in Yemen, saying the war would "bring harm" to the kingdom, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported on Wednesday.

Iran has repeatedly condemned a Saudi-led air offensive against Yemen's Houthi movement, launched in April after the Tehran-allied fighters began battling forces loyal to exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi for control of the country.

Zarif's remarks from Kuwait, where he was attending a meeting of the Islamic Organisation Conference (IOC), was one of Tehran's most direct attempts yet to engage Gulf Arab countries on the crisis in Yemen.

"We say to our Saudi brothers that we want a brighter future for all countries in the region, and what they are doing in Yemen will end up harming them," Zarif was quoted as saying.

Shi'ite power Iran and Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia are locked in a tussle over influence in the Middle East, with Tehran and Riyadh supporting rival forces in conflicts including Syria and Yemen, mostly along sectarian lines.

Riyadh believes Iranian support for militias in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen and the government of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria is the biggest cause of regional instability, fuelling sectarian tensions and boosting Sunni Islamist militants.

In Yemen, Saudi Arabia and most other Gulf Arab states are concerned the Houthis' friendship with Iran will give the Islamic Republic a foothold in their backyard, the Arabian Peninsula.

In an open letter published in Kuwaiti newspapers, Zarif called for dialogue between Tehran and its Arab neighbours to resolve the region's crises.

Zarif assured Arab states that Iran had no designs to revive its ancient empire, which spanned a large area of the Middle East, and said an agreement with world powers over a nuclear deal with Tehran would help bring peace to the region.

"Solving this artificial (nuclear) crisis and distancing the region from a military confrontation is in favour of peace ... and in the interest of all Muslim states," he said in the letter.

Referring to a US-Gulf Arab summit earlier this month at Camp David, Maryland, Zarif was quoted by IRNA as saying Saudi Arabia should work with Tehran rather than with the United States to settle the region's wars.

"Why do you go to Camp David when we are right next to you and want to pursue good relations, and when America does not wish you well and pursues its own interests?" he said.

He also said Tehran wanted good relations with Saudi Arabia but that war would not solve the crisis in Yemen.