TEHERAN (AFP) – Iran’s foreign ministry accused Saudi Arabia of stoking regional tension Monday (Jan 4) after the kingdom broke off diplomatic relations and said Iranian embassy staff must leave in the next 24 hours.
“Saudi Arabia sees not only its interests but also its existence in pursuing crises and confrontations and attempts to resolve its internal problems by exporting them to the outside,” said ministry spokesman Hossein Jaber Ansari.
Saudi Arabia announced its response a day after its embassy in Teheran was firebombed by an angry mob and its interior destroyed.
“What happened in regard to diplomatic missions, it is not the first time such a thing happens worldwide,” Ansari said.
By severing diplomatic relations, Saudi Arabia is “continuing the policy of increasing tension and clashes in the region” Ansari said.
His remarks came the morning after Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced diplomatic ties had been cut, giving the Iranian diplomats 48 hours notice to depart.
Jubeir did so after the two countries clashed over the kingdom’s execution on Saturday (Jan 2) of a Shiite cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, an act that Iran’s supreme leader said would be met with “divine revenge”.
The oil-rich rivals have also been divided over the nearly five-year war in Syria, where Iran is backing the regime, and the conflict in Yemen where a Saudi-led coalition is battling Shiite rebels.
Ansari, who said that the Iranian diplomats had not yet left Riyadh, insisted Iran had always protected diplomatic missions to ensure the safety of diplomats and dealt with transgressions.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani had on Sunday (Jan 3) condemned the violence at the embassy as “totally unjustifiable” and judicial officials said 44 arrests had been made.