LONDON, May 4 – Iran accused Saudi Arabia on Wednesday of seeking tension in the region, saying the Saudi deputy crown prince had made “destructive” comments by ruling out dialogue with Tehran.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also Saudi defence minister and a son of King Salman, said in unusually blunt remarks on Tuesday that he would protect his kingdom from what he called Iranian efforts to dominate the Muslim world.
“These comments are proof that Saudi Arabia supports terrorism and seeks confrontational and destructive policies in the region and towards Iran,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by state media.
He said such remarks, in the most optimistic of scenarios, showed Saudis lacked a correct understanding of regional issues.
Tehran and Riyadh have no diplomatic relations at present. Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia severed ties with Iran in 2016 when Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran following Riyadh’s execution of a prominent Shi’ite Muslim cleric.
Saudi Arabia and Iran compete for influence in the Middle East, supporting rival groups in Syria’s civil war.
In Yemen, Iran denies Saudi accusations that it provides financial and military support to the armed Houthi movement that is fighting government forces allied with Saudi Arabia.
“While Western Asia is filled with tension and needs cooperation and understanding among countries, making such comments is a strategic mistake and lacks political sensibility,” Qasemi said.
Relations between the two regional powers worsened after hundreds of people, many of them Iranians, died in a crush at the annual haj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia in 2015.
No Iranian pilgrims attended the haj in 2016, but Tehran reached an agreement with Riyadh in March to resume Iranian participation in the annual pilgrimage this year.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in February during a visit to Kuwait, a Saudi ally, that Tehran seeks to restore relations and improve ties with all its Gulf Arab neighbours.