The Iranian foreign ministry has responded to Saudi Arabia’s call for global action against Iran, calling in turn on the kingdom to refrain from “baseless allegations and hate-mongering”.
The remarks came a day after Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud urged the world to take a “decisive stance” to address Iran’s efforts to develop its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
“The kingdom stresses the dangers of Iran’s regional project, its interference in other countries, its fostering of terrorism, its fanning the flames of sectarianism and calls for a decisive stance from the international community against Iran that guarantees a drastic handling of its efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction and develop its ballistic missiles programme,” the king said in an annual address to a top government advisory body.
In a virtual press conference in Tehran, foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Monday it was not “unnatural” for Saudi rulers to make such remarks.
“But I believe Iran’s message has been clear … the Saudi regime must know that peace cannot be achieved through killing the people of Yemen, the region cannot be ruled through propagating Wahhabism and takfiri groups, money cannot be spent to lobby, and resources of the Muslim world cannot be spent to betray Palestine,” he said.
“So long as Saudi rulers don’t turn back from this wrong path, there will be no prospect of improving the isolated Saudi situation even in the Persian Gulf region.”
The 84-year-old Saudi ruler also told the United Nations General Assembly in September that the world needs to combat Iran’s “expansionism”.
Saudi Arabia and Iran have been locked in several proxy wars in the region for years. In Yemen, a Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Tehran-aligned Houthi movement for more than five years.
Regional Muslim unity
On Monday, the Iranian spokesman also sent a message of unity to Muslim countries in the region.
Khatibzadeh said it is “painful” that the region finds itself in a situation where those that were supposed to help and advance it have betrayed it.
“Based on our beliefs, the hand of friendship of the Islamic Republic is still open to all Islamic countries,” he said.
“We are all familiar with the plans and schemes of the Saudis. We did not choose to be neighbours, but we are. They have no choice, and all of us have no choice, but to become united to advance this region.”
Tensions in the region have steadily grown since outgoing US President Donald Trump in May 2018 withdrew from a 2015 landmark Iran nuclear deal with world powers and unilaterally imposed sanctions on Iran.
Saudi Arabia and a number of other Arab states have been fervently supporting sanctions on Iran.
US president-elect Joe Biden has promised to return to the nuclear deal, but has said he will seek to put pressure on Iran’s regional activities and missile programmes, among other things.