Iran halts discussions with Saudi Arabia and condemns killings
Iran–Iran has halted discussions with regional adversary Saudi Arabia, according to a website connected with Iran’s top security organization. No rationale was given for the move, which comes as a fifth session of talks was about to begin this week. Tehran also criticized Saudi Arabia’s mass killings, which activists claimed included 41 Shi’ite Muslims. Meanwhile, in Vienna, discussions on an Iranian nuclear deal have come to a halt.
“Iran has terminated discussions with Saudi Arabia unilaterally,” Nor News said, without elaborating. It stated that no definite date for a new round of discussions had been set. A Reuters request for comment was not immediately returned by the Saudi government’s media agency, CIRC. Saudi Arabia, a Sunni Muslim country, and Iran, a Shi’ite country, began bilateral discussions last year to try to de-escalate regional tensions. Iraq’s foreign minister said on Saturday that a fresh round would be held in his nation on Wednesday.
Following the death of a Shi’ite cleric in Saudi Arabia, Iranian demonstrators stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran in 2016. Riyadh suspended ties with Iran in 2016. Saudi Arabia said on Saturday that it has murdered 81 individuals in the country’s largest mass execution in decades. According to activists, 41 of the victims were Shi’ite Muslims from the eastern Qatif area, which has long been a flashpoint between the Sunni-dominated government and the minority Shi’ites.
Saudi officials did not reply to a request for comment from Reuters. Saudi Arabia dismisses allegations of human rights violations, claiming that its laws defend its national security. The prisoners killed on Saturday had the right to an attorney and were granted their full rights under Saudi law during the court procedure, according to the country’s state news agency, SPA. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said Iranian state media that the killings were a “violation of basic human rights norms and international law.”
The executions were described as a “ugly crime” by Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah in a statement released on Sunday. For years, Saudi Arabia and Iran have backed opposing sides in regional conflicts and political issues such as those in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq, and since 2015, Saudi Arabia has led an Arab coalition against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen.
The direct negotiations, which have mostly focused on Yemen, have made little headway, according to Riyadh. Two Yemeni “prisoners of war” were among those killed by Saudi Arabia, according to Houthi officials. Meanwhile, efforts to resurrect the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement are in jeopardy after a last-minute Russian demand led international powers to halt talks for an indefinite period despite having a nearly finalized document.