Arab League foreign ministers, who were once all staunch supporters of the former Iraqi Ba’athist regime of slain dictator, Saddam Hussein, threw their weight behind Saudi Arabia and condemned recent attacks on the monarchy’s missions in Iran.
After a Cairo emergency meeting to discuss the escalating tensions between Tehran and Riyadh over Saudi Arabia’s execution of prominent Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr on Sunday, the 22-member body issued a joint statement and condemned the attacks on the kingdom’s embassy in Tehran and its consulate in the northeastern city of Mashhad.
The meeting’s closing statement accused Tehran of “provocative acts”.
Most League members voted in favor of the statement, while Lebanon, as well as Iraq, abstained from voting on the statement.
Following the statement, Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said, “We protest the statement due to its mentioning of the Lebanese Hezbollah organization and accusations of terrorist activity. It (Hezbollah) is represented in the country’s parliament and government, and thus we demanded removal of the expression for Lebanon’s position to be identical with the common decision.”
No specific measures against Iran were announced; a committee is being set up to consult over possible future action.
The Arab League meeting, requested by Riyadh, was held in the Egyptian capital after the Saudi diplomatic missions were partially damaged by protesters furious at the execution of Sheikh Nimr as well as the monarchy’s continued interventionist and destabilizing policies in the region.
In response to the protests in Tehran, the Saudi government on January 3 announced that Riyadh was ceasing its diplomatic relations with Tehran.
Meanwhile, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir Abdollahian said in Tehran’s first response that by cutting diplomatic ties, Riyadh could not cover up “its major mistake of executing Sheikh Nimr”.
Saudi Arabia’s execution of 47 prisoners, including Sheikh Nimr, drew global condemnation on January 2.
The executions took place in 12 cities in Saudi Arabia, four prisons using firing squads and the others beheading. The bodies were then hanged from gibbets in the most severe form of punishment available in the kingdom’s law.
Sheikh Nimr had been detained in July 2012 on charges of delivering anti-regime speeches and defending political prisoners.