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Chinese envoy travels to Saudi Arabia, Iran
January 7, 2016, 10:00 am

 People take part in a demonstration against Saudi Arabia, in Tehran, Iran, Jan. 4, 2016 [Xinhua]

People take part in a demonstration against Saudi Arabia, in Tehran, Iran, Jan. 4, 2016 [Xinhua]

Even as many countries downgraded diplomatic ties with Iran escalating the divide in its dispute with Saudi Arabia, Beijing on Thursday said a top envoy will hold talks with both sides to initiate dialogue.

China’s foreign ministry on Thursday called on all sides to exercise restraint.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Ming who is currently in Saudi Arabia would travel on to Iran, ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in Beijing.

“We hope the situation in the Middle East can move in the direction of amelioration,” Hua said at a press briefing.

“We hope that all parties can remain calm and exercise restraint and appropriately resolve relevant issues via dialogue and consultation,” Hua added.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are the largest and fifth-biggest oil producers in OPEC, respectively. China is Iran’s biggest oil client.

Chinese ally Russia has also indicated it is ready to invite the Saudi and Iranian foreign ministers to Moscow for negotiations.

Saudi Arabia announced Sunday it was severing its ties to Iran after its embassy in Tehran was firebombed in protest at the kingdom’s execution of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr.

Nimr was a force behind 2011 anti-government protests in eastern Saudi Arabia, where Shiites have long complained of marginalisation.

Riyadh told its diplomats to leave the Islamic Republic within 48 hours.

While Saudi ally Bahrain said it was severing diplomatic ties with Iran, others like UAE, Jordan, Djibouti, Turkey, Qatar and Sudan said they were downgrading diplomatic relations with Tehran.

On Wednesday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani asked the country’s judiciary to urgently prosecute the people who attacked the Saudi missions.

“By punishing the attackers and those who orchestrated this obvious offence, we should put an end once and forever to such damage and insults to Iran’s dignity and national security,” Rouhani was quoted as saying in a letter published on the state news agency IRNA.
On Tuesday, Rouhani said Riyadh cannot hide the “crime” of killing a religious cleric by severing diplomatic ties with Tehran.

The Saudi authorities should have not responded to the criticisms of al-Nimr by beheading him, Rouhani said in a meeting with visiting Danish Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen.

At a joint press conference with his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim al-Jaafari in Tehran on Wednesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged regional countries not to get entangled in the current tensions and instead to unitedly fight terrorism.

Saudi Arabia and Iran as well as most countries in the Middle East are bitterly divided over the response to the rise of the Islamic State and to the future of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.


TBP and Agencies

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