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Chinese envoy urges restraint in Saudi-Iran feud

Saudi Arabia and Iran as well as most countries in the Middle East are bitterly divided over the response to the rise of the Islamic State and to the future of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad [Xinhua]

A Chinese envoy who visited Saudi Arabia and Iran over the past week has called for both ­countries to exercise calm and restraint amid an ongoing feud ­between the two countries, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said on Monday.

Even as many Arab countries recalled envoys to Iran and the United Arab Emirates downgraded relations in solidarity with Saudi Arabia, China sent vice foreign minister Zhang Ming to Saudi Arabia and Iran for an exchange of views, said Chinese foreign ministry last week.

China’s Foreign Ministry said Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming met senior Saudi and Iranian officials on his trip.

While in Saudi, Zhang talked about the situation between Saudi Arabia and Iran and “hopes the relevant parties maintain calm and exercise restraint, step up dialogue and consultations and jointly promote an amelioration of the situation”, the ministry said.

In Iran, Zhang repeated the message about calm and restraint, adding China hopes for the maintenance of peace and stability in the region.

Both countries expressed their appreciation for China’s role in the region, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are the largest and fifth-biggest oil producers in OPEC, respectively. China is Iran’s biggest oil client.

Chinese ally Russia has also indicated it is ready to invite the Saudi and Iranian foreign ministers to Moscow for negotiations.

Saudi Arabia announced last week it was severing its ties to Iran after its embassy in Tehran was firebombed in protest at the kingdom’s execution of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Nimr was a force behind 2011 anti-government protests in eastern Saudi Arabia, where Shiites have long complained of marginalisation.

Riyadh told its diplomats to leave the Islamic Republic within 48 hours.

While Saudi ally Bahrain said it was severing diplomatic ties with Iran, others like UAE, Jordan, Djibouti, Turkey, Qatar and Sudan said they were downgrading diplomatic relations with Tehran.

On Wednesday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani asked the country’s judiciary to urgently prosecute the people who attacked the Saudi missions.

“By punishing the attackers and those who orchestrated this obvious offence, we should put an end once and forever to such damage and insults to Iran’s dignity and national security,” Rouhani was quoted as saying in a letter published on the state news agency IRNA.
Saudi Arabia and Iran as well as most countries in the Middle East are bitterly divided over the response to the rise of the Islamic State and to the future of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

TBP and Agencies

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