Saudi Arabia has announced severing of diplomatic relations with Iran following Tehran's objection to execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir made the announcement in a Sunday address aired by al-Arabiya News Channel, adding that Iran's diplomatic mission and related entities had 48 hours to leave the country.
The move followed 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 killing of the top cleric as part of a crackdown on Shias mostly residing in the kingdom's Eastern Province.
Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was the first Iranian official to react to the severance, stressing that Riyadh “cannot cover” up its “big mistake” by cutting ties with Tehran.
He noted that no Saudi diplomats were harmed during the protests held in Tehran and Mashhad and that “Iran is one of the safest countries in the region” where diplomats are carrying out their responsibilities.
Amir-Abdollahian asserted that this is not the first time Saudi Arabia has threatened regional security with its “strategic errors” and “hasty approaches.”
By plotting to reduce the price of crude oil, Saudi Arabia is harming its own people and the people of other Muslim countries in the region, he added.
Amir-Abdollahian also noted that during Iran’s talks with the P5+1 group of countries over Tehran’s nuclear program, Saudi Arabia played a destructive role.
Execution of the Shia cleric along with 46 others has drawn condemnation from governments and human rights groups from all over the world.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was among those who strongly denounced the move, yet arguing that the Iranian nation would not allow the execution to be used as a pretext by “radical” groups as a means to resort to “illegal” measures.
Police forces were deployed to the scene of demonstrations in Tehran and Mashhad on Saturday and dozens of arrests were made.
Muslims and human rights activists have joined forces all over the world to protest Nimr’s killing.
Sheikh Nimr, a critic of the Riyadh regime, was shot by Saudi police and arrested in 2012 in Qatif, which was the scene of peaceful anti-regime demonstrations at the time.
He was charged with instigating unrest and undermining the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches and defending political prisoners. He had rejected all the charges as baseless
In 2014, a Saudi court sentenced Nimr to death, provoking widespread global condemnations. The sentence was upheld last March by the appeal court of Saudi Arabia.
According to the Saudi foreign minister, the country’s diplomatic mission in Iran had left for Dubai.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s allies, the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council ([P]GCC) and the Arab League, have expressed support for Riyadh.
Before Jubeir’s announcement, a Saudi spokesman said the incidents had been reported to the UN Security council.
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