Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, said government has widened its rift with Iran by halting air traffic and trade links with the Islamic republic. He said on Tuesday in Riyadh that government was demanding that Tehran must “act like a normal country” before it would restore severed diplomatic relations.
“We will also be cutting off all air traffic to and from Iran.
“We will be cutting off all commercial relations with Iran and government will have a travel ban against people travelling to Iran,” he said.
He, however, said Iranian pilgrims would still be welcome to visit Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina in western Saudi Arabia, either for the annual hajj or at other times of year on the Umrah pilgrimage. al-Jubeir, a former ambassador to Washington where the FBI in 2011, said he had been the target of an Iranian assassination plot, said the break in ties was a response to older problems as well as the embassy storming.
The minister accused Tehran of rising tensions after the kingdom executed Shi’ite Muslim cleric Nimr al-Nimr on Saturday, describing him as a terrorist. He said the time has come for Riyadh to react to “Iranian aggression”, he accused Tehran of dispatching fighters to Arab countries and plotting attacks inside the kingdom and its Gulf neighbours.
“There is no escalation on the part of Saudi Arabia because our moves are all reactive.
“It is the Iranians who went into Lebanon. It is the Iranians who sent their Qods Force and their Revolutionary Guards into Syria,” he said.
The execution of Nimr provoked protests among Shi’ites across the region and Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran, setting fires and causing damage, prompting Riyadh to cut ties and inflaming an already heated rivalry. al-Jubeir said Saudi Arabia had been right to execute Nimr, whom he accused of “agitating, organising cells, providing them with weapons and money”.
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