x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

GCC stands by Riyadh against Iran’s ‘meddling’

Regional bloc condemns attack on Saudi diplomatic missions and warns Tehran of 'further measures'.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, right, with, from left, GCC secretary general Abdullatif Al Zayani, Kuwaiti foreign minister Sheikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah, Qatari foreign minister Khaled Al Attiyah, Omani foreign minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, Saudi Arabian foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir and Bahraini foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa during a meeting in Riyadh on January 9, 2016. Faisal Al Nasser / Reuters
The Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, right, with, from left, GCC secretary general Abdullatif Al Zayani, Kuwaiti foreign minister Sheikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah, Qatari foreign minister Khaled Al Attiyah, Omani foreign minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, Saudi Arabian foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir and Bahraini foreign minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa during a meeting in Riyadh on January 9, 2016. Faisal Al Nasser / Reuters

RIYADH // Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council on Saturday expressed “total support” for Saudi Arabia in its diplomatic row with Iran, and the Saudi foreign minister warned of further measures against Tehran.

The GCC “forcefully condemns the attacks on Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran”, the six Gulf states said. Demonstrators set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran and attacked the consulate in Mashad last week in protests against the kingdom’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric and dissident.

Nimr Al Nimr was executed on January 2 along with 46 other people convicted of terrorism.

The GCC statement, which followed a special meeting of the group’s foreign ministers, criticised “Iranian interference in Saudi Arabian affairs”. It said Tehran’s criticism had “directly incited the aggressions targeting Saudi diplomatic missions”.

The GCC said it “totally supports decisions taken by Saudi Arabia to combat terrorism” and “has total confidence in the independence and integrity of Saudi justice”.

Saudi Arabia has already severed all diplomatic and commercial ties with Iran. “We are looking at additional measures to be taken if it continues with its current policies,” the Saudi foreign minister, Adel Al Jubeir, said after Saturday’s meeting. Bahrain has also severed diplomatic relations, Kuwait and Qatar recalled their ambassadors, the UAE downgraded its ties and Oman condemned the embassy attacks.

Tehran reacted by cutting all commercial ties with Riyadh and banning pilgrims from travelling to Mecca.

“The escalation is coming from Iran, not from Saudi Arabia or the GCC. We are evaluating Iran’s moves and taking steps to counter them … things will be clearer in the near future,” Mr Al Jubeir said.

Saudi Arabia has also asked the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, of which Iran is a member, to convene an extraordinary meeting to discuss the aggression against its embassy.

The Arab League will hold an emergency meeting on the issue on Sunday, chaired by the UAE.

* Agence France-Presse and Reuters