A war of words between Saudi Arabia and Iran risks endangering sensitive negotiations to end civil wars in Syria and Yemen.
UNITED NATIONS (TRNS) – As a diplomat standoff between Saudi Arabia and Iran continues to escalate, the U.N. hopes to erect a ‘firewall’ between the war of words and upcoming peace talks focused on ending the nearly five-year Syrian civil war.
“We’re hopeful that the tensions will not bleed over into that,” spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said Tuesday, “and we’d very much like to see the same on the Yemen track.”
In addition to Syrian peace talks scheduled to begin on January 25th, the U.N. is helping to mediate negotiations to end the civil war in Yemen. Those negotiations were put on hold in late December after repeated ceasefire violations, but the U.N.’s envoy to the country said he hoped that talks could resume in January.
Saturday’s execution of a prominent Shia cleric in Saudi Arabia sparked a diplomatic crisis between the kingdom and Iran after protesters stormed and burned the Saudi embassy in Tehran. The two countries subsequently cut diplomatic ties, with Saudi Arabia taking additional measures, including halting air travel to Iran and suspending bilateral trade.
On Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon phoned the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Iran, urging Iran’s Javad Zarif to ensure the protection of diplomatic facilities and Saudi Arabia’s Adel al-Jubeir to recommit his country to peace in Yemen.
Ban reportedly told both ministers “to avoid any actions that could further exacerbate the situation” and he emphasized the “importance of continued constructive engagement by both countries in the interest of the region and beyond.”