No positive change in Saudi political approaches: Iran FM

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Saudi Arabia has made no positive change in its political approaches and is still escalating tensions in the Middle East.

“We see no positive development in the political behavior of Saudi officials and they are still fueling tensions in the region through their policies and stances instead of taking advantage of the present grounds for dialogue and interaction,” Zarif said in an interview with ISNA on Sunday.

He said the Saudis had pinned their hopes on the “negative atmosphere” created about Iran before the July 2015 landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries and said, “Unfortunately, some regional countries were very enthusiastic about that pressure and the negative atmosphere.”

However, after the signing of the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), these regional states made great efforts to restore the previous conditions, he added.

Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council – the United States, France, Britain, Russia and China – plus Germany signed the JCPOA on July 14, 2015 and started implementing it on January 16, 2016.

Under the nuclear agreement, Iran undertook to put limitations on its nuclear program in exchange for the removal of nuclear-related sanctions imposed against Tehran.

Zarif said Iran’s neighboring countries would soon come to a conclusion that “such policies and pressure on Tehran would bear no results and that negotiations with Iran would be the best way” to solve regional issues.

“Iran is a well-wishing country in the region and is keen to cooperate and negotiate with regional countries,” the top Iranian diplomat pointed out.

He said the neighboring countries supporting terrorists are losing their influence in the region because of their measures.

In response to a question about the likelihood of a mediator such as Iraq helping restore relations between Tehran and Riyadh, he said, “We do not feel that there is a need for a mediator.”

He noted, however, that Iran has not opposed some countries’ proposal to play a positive role in restoring Tehran-Riyadh ties and even made a positive reaction to them “because Iran needs no tension.”

Zarif further said Saudi Arabia thinks that it needs to create tension in the region in order to promote its own regional objectives, however, the kingdom must stop such a “delusional policy.”

Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia soured after a deadly human crush occurred during Hajj rituals in Mina, near Mecca in September 2015. Saudi Arabia initially published a death toll of 770 but refused to update it despite gradually surging fatality figures from individual countries whose nationals had been among the victims of the crush.

Iran said about 4,700 people, including over 465 of its nationals, lost their lives in the incident.

Earlier that same month, a massive construction crane had collapsed into Mecca’s Grand Mosque, killing more than 100 pilgrims, including 11 Iranians, and injuring over 200 others, among them 32 Iranian nationals.

Mutual ties deteriorated further when Riyadh executed prominent Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in January 2016. Saudi Arabia unilaterally severed its diplomatic ties with Iran after protests in front of its diplomatic premises in the cities of Tehran and Mashhad against Nimr’s execution.