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02 December 2023

Global concern over tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's embassy in the United States stands in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood near the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Watergate complex January 4, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images/AFP)

By Agencies

Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran erupted into a full-blown diplomatic crisis as Riyadh and its Sunni Arab allies cut or reduced ties with Tehran, sparking global concern.

European countries and regional power Turkey voiced concerns over the row, while US Secretary of State John Kerry called his Iranian and Saudi counterparts on Monday and Moscow offered to act as an intermediary.

The UN envoy for Syria headed to Riyadh and Tehran to defuse tensions, and a US official said Washington was "urging calm and de-escalation".

Saudi Arabia insisted at the United Nations, however, that the row would not affect efforts to resolve conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran late on Sunday, giving diplomats 48 hours to leave the kingdom after protesters -- responding to Nimr's execution -- set fire to its embassy in Tehran and a consulate in second city Mashhad, an attack strongly condemned by the UN Security Council.

The deterioration in relations "will further diminish already low expectations" in particular for talks on Syria expected to take place this month, according to Noah Bonsey, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group.

"Ultimately, reaching a political resolution in Syria would require key states backing each side to make reciprocal concessions, and pressure their Syrian allies to do the same," he said. "For now, things are moving in the opposite direction."