Arab Foreign Ministers Back Saudi Arabia in Dispute with Iran
by Edward Yeranian January 10, 2016
Arab League foreign ministers expressed solidarity with Saudi Arabia during a meeting Sunday in Cairo to discuss the recent attacks on its diplomatic missions in Iran. Eight Arab countries have downgraded diplomatic ties with Iran over the attacks that followed Saudi Arabia's execution of a Shi'ite cleric.
The gathering of Arab foreign ministers and diplomats applauded as the United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Ben Zayid blasted Iran.
He claims that Iran uses sectarianism as a tool to impose its hegemony over the region and to meddle in the internal affairs of Arab states. He alleged that it supports extremist groups, trains and arms terrorists and creates militias to spread chaos and violence and destabilize the area.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir accused Iran of recruiting agents inside Arab countries to use against their governments and urged it to "stop interfering in internal affairs" of neighbors.
He claims Saudi Arabia does not want a Sunni-Shi'ite conflict, but that Iran began sowing religious divisions after its 1979 revolution, while Saudi Arabia opposes the practice.
Iranian demonstrators attacked the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, setting part of it ablaze, after Saudi Arabia executed a top Saudi Shi'ite religious leader, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
Rouhani: Attack on Saudi Embassy 'wrong'
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani last week called the attack on the Saudi Embassy 'wrong and against the law.' But he said Saudi Arabia cannot use severing diplomatic ties with Iran to 'hide its crime' of executing Nimr al-Nimr, who was critical of the Riyadh kingdom.
Arab League head Nabil ElArabi urged Iran to reduce tensions with its neighbors by taking firm action.
He says it impinges on Iran to take concrete steps to prove its stated desire to improve ties with its Arab neighbors and allay their fears of meddling in their internal affairs.
No concrete action expected
American University of Beirut Political Science Professor Hilal Khashan tells VOA it is unlikely the Arab League meeting will result in any concrete action.
"The Saudis simply wanted a statement of solidarity and they got it. They did not really ask for more or expect more," he said.
Khashan adds Iran has repeated that it is "not interested in escalation with Saudi Arabia," and it "suspended a number of police officials in Tehran" over the Saudi Embassy attack.
Eight Arab states have either cut or downgraded diplomatic ties with Iran.
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