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10 Dec, 2017 15:42

Get out of Yemen and break up with Israel to restore ties with Iran, Rouhani tells Saudi Arabia

Get out of Yemen and break up with Israel to restore ties with Iran, Rouhani tells Saudi Arabia

Iran could have better relations with Saudi Arabia, but Riyadh must first stop its military intervention in Yemen and distance itself from Israel, Iran’s president told lawmakers. The two nations are regional powerhouses deadlocked in a conflict.

The confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia is multi-layered, rooted in religious, economic and political differences between the two. But, according to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, relations between the two may improve, if the Saudis take a certain course of action.

“Saudi Arabia should suspend its bombardment of Yemen and stop looking for contacts with the Zionist regime,” he said in an address to parliament on Sunday as cited by Iran’s Press TV. “We want Saudi Arabia to stop two things, the misguided friendship with Israel and the inhuman bombardment of Yemen.”

Rouhani said if these two conditions are met, relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia may be restored. Riyadh severed formal relations with Tehran in January 2016 in response to an attack on its embassy in the Islamic Republic. The diplomatic facility was seized by a crowd of angry protesters, who wanted revenge for the execution of prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr days earlier. The diplomatic rift came amid a long period of escalating tension between the two Muslim nations.

The crisis came months after the death of masses of pilgrims in Saudi Arabia-controlled Mina in September 2015. Of the estimated 2,400 pilgrims killed in the stampede over 460 were Iranian nationals. Iranian officials accused the Saudis of negligence and a failure to uphold their responsibility as custodians of Islamic holy sites. The criticism was branded as an attempt to play politics in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia and Iran accuse each other of various misdeeds, including sponsoring terrorism, twisting the arms of third countries in the region, waging propaganda campaigns against each other and being unfaithful to the tenets of Islam, with the nations being champions of the two major sects of the religion. They are also on opposite sides in their relations with the United States, with Shia Iran having been a sworn enemy of Washington ever since the 1979 revolution and Sunni Saudi Arabia being a key military and trade partner for America.

READ MORE: Israeli minister reveals contacts with Saudi Arabia 'to curb Iran'

The remarks by Rouhani came after senior Israeli officials indicated that their government was involved in clandestine cooperation with some Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, and was willing to do even more to curb the growing influence of Iran. Tehran has succeeded in furthering its goals in the region lately, Middle East observers say, gaining a better foothold in Iraq and Syria and defending Lebanon from a perceived attempt by Saudi Arabia to undermine the positions of Hezbollah militant movement.