Muslim body calls for de-escalation Riyadh-Tehran dispute

Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Iyad Madani ©AP

The head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has called for the de-escalation of recent tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, saying such a situation diverts attentions from the “real challenges” facing Muslims.

Iyad Madani made the remarks on Thursday during an address to an extraordinary meeting of the world’s largest Muslim body.

“It is clear that the continued deterioration of relations between some of our member states contributes to deepening rifts” among Islamic nations, in apparent reference to the row between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The head of the 57-member group that is based in the Saudi city of Jeddah further said that such tensions “distract us from addressing the real challenges,” including “terrorism,” which threaten members of the organization.

Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with Iran on January 3 following demonstrations held in front of the Saudi embassy in Tehran and its consulate in the northeastern city of Mashhad by angry protesters censuring the Al Saud family for the execution of prominent cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Riyadh.

Some people mounted the walls of the consulate in Mashhad while incendiary devices were hurled at the embassy in Tehran. Iranian officials strongly denounced the raids and have arrested over 150 people over the incidents.

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has also slammed the attack as “wrong,” saying such acts of violence are to the detriment of Islam and Iran’s interests.

Several countries, including Pakistan, Russia and China, have voiced readiness to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia to ease up their tensions.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday stressed that the Islamic Republic does not seek any tensions with Saudi Arabia, and that the two Muslim countries can coexist peacefully.

“We don’t expect, or we’re not interested even, in pushing Saudi Arabia out of this region, because Saudi Arabia is an important player in this region,” Zarif told the CNN.

Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs Abbas Araqchi who has attended the OIC meeting, meanwhile, told Reuters on the sidelines of the gathering that he hopes tensions do not escalate after the conference.

“I hope the conference plays its role to deescalate the situation. It’s very much hoped by OIC. But apparently some specific countries do not like that. They prefer tension. But tension is in favor of nobody,” he added.

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