International community urges calm amid Saudi-Iran row

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Tension between Saudi and Iran skyrocketed following execution of Shia imam and 46 others on terrorism-related charges

ANKARA – The ongoing diplomatic row between Saudi Arabia and Iran has raised eyebrows around the globe, with international actors urging calm in an already boiling region.  

Tension between the two regional rivals skyrocketed after Saudi Arabia executed Shia imam Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others Saturday on terrorism-related charges.  

Following al-Nimr’s execution, predominantly-Shia Iranian protesters torched two diplomatic buildings belonging to Saudi Arabia in Tehran and Mashhad to protest the execution. On Sunday, Saudi Arabia announced the cutting of diplomatic ties with Iran.

France called on Saudi and Iran to de-escalate tension to avoid the eruption of a sectarian conflict.

“The strength of France is being able to talk to everyone and the Foreign Minister [Laurent Fabius] pointed our wish of de-escalation,” French government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said Monday. 

The EU’s heavyweight Germany called on Saudi Arabia and Iran to act responsibly and take steps toward de-escalation.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the international community has worked hard in recent years to settle conflicts in the region.

“Now what we need is responsible actors in the region, who act in a responsible way, both in Riyadh and Tehran,” Steinmeier said in an interview with Bild daily on Tuesday. 

In the U.K., Prime Minister David Cameron condemned Riyadh’s use of the death penalty and called for improved relations.

Speaking to journalists in east London on Monday, he said: “It is hugely concerning because of course we want to see stability in the Middle East… not least because that will be absolutely essential for solving the crisis in Syria.”

EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini called the Saudi and Iranian foreign ministers on Monday and urged both countries to “defuse the tensions.”

The U.S. also called for increased diplomatic efforts between the two nations.  

“We continue to believe that diplomatic engagement and direct conversations are essential to work through differences,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby.

Meanwhile, Japan urged Saudi and Iran on Tuesday to de-escalate tensions in the region through dialogue, according to Japanese news agency Kyodo.

Referring to Japan’s high dependence on the region for oil, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, “Our country is concerned about [the] deterioration in relations between some Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and Iran.”

Malaysia expressed deep concern over the developments and strongly condemned “the acts of the mob that attacked the Embassy and Consulate of Saudi Arabia in Tehran and Mashad,” according to a Tuesday statement by the Malaysian Foreign Ministry.

Pakistan also expressed its concern about the escalating tensions.

“It is the responsibility of states to provide full safety and security to all diplomatic missions and their personnel,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office said. “Terrorism and extremism forces may take advantage of any disunity in the Muslim Umma (world).”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon phoned the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Iran to urge both countries to avoid actions that could further exacerbate tensions, according to his spokesperson’s office.

– Aamir Latif, Hajer M’tiri, Ayhan Sismek, Ilgin Karlidag, Michael Daventry, Mustafa Caglayan and P Prem Kumar contributed to this report. 

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