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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

UAE recalls ambassador to Iran

The UAE recalled its ambassador to Iran on Monday and reduced the number of diplomats stationed there after Saudi Arabia and Bahrain severed diplomatic relations with Tehran.

ABU DHABI // The UAE recalled its ambassador to Iran on Monday and reduced the number of diplomats stationed there after Saudi Arabia and Bahrain severed diplomatic relations with Tehran.

The Foreign Ministry also summoned Iran’s ambassador to the UAE in response to an attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran on Sunday. Iranian protesters angered by the kingdom’s execution of a leading Shiite cleric stormed the building.

“Only a charge d’affaires will remain and the number of Iranian diplomats in the UAE was also reduced,” a Foreign Ministry statement said. “It is an exceptional step that was taken in light of the continuous Iranian intervention in internal Gulf and Arab affairs and that has reached unprecedented levels in the recent period.”

The Saudi embassy was attacked and set on fire after the kingdom on Saturday executed 47 prisoners, mostly Sunni militants linked to Al Qaeda, but including Nimr Al Nimr, a Shiite leader from the east of the country.

On Sunday night, Saudi Arabia announced it would cut all diplomatic ties with Iran. Bahrain and Sudan also cut relations with Tehran on Monday.

While the UAE did not completely sever diplomatic contact, it recalled ambassador Saif Al Zaabi and greatly reduced embassy staff in Tehran.

The decision followed strong statements from Emirati officials in support of Riyadh and condemning the attack on the Saudi embassy.

Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said the Iranian escalation in response to the Saudi decision was “unacceptable” and contributed to regional tension.

“Equal relations should be based on respect of sovereignty and non-interference,” he tweeted on Sunday. “The attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran is condemned in international laws and is in itself a dangerous escalation undermining diplomatic and legal conventions.”

Sabahat Khan, senior analyst at the Dubai-based think tank Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis, said the incident could be long-lasting.

“The Saudis almost feel they were provoked by the Iranians into severing ties so this will be a test and it could potentially have long lasting implications. It stops an avenue of dialogue and that is a big problem when you have a region where you have different conflicts going on, and both Saudi and Iran supporting different sides so closing this avenue of dialogue can be dangerous for both sides.”

Khaled Almaeena, a Jeddah-based political analyst, said the Saudis hoped the Iranians will come to their senses because, in all honesty, you cannot just go and burn down an embassy.”

cmalek@thenational.ae